An old-school horror tale that delightfully embraces its inspirations and genre conventions.

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AN ILLUSTRATED NOVEL

A cosmetic surgeon becomes obsessed with a reputed cell-regeneration machine and a mysterious, ageless woman in old photographs in this supernatural novel.

It’s 1974, and Nigel Leary’s terminal cancer means the California surgeon has little time left. But there’s hope, possibly, when Ida Inkettle walks into his office with her father Conrad’s book. It contains his research into “regeneration”; while Ida wants Nigel to use this knowledge to give her back her youth, he sees a potential cure for cancer. With help from his office assistant, Marian Nicks, and Ida’s caretaker, Oliver Cook, Nigel delves into Conrad’s experiments, which began in the late 19th century, with an enigmatic machine. Most of what they discover is grim: Conrad’s experiments on his wife, Eleanor, were akin to torture. But in images from Conrad’s lab, there’s an unknown woman from the 1890s with the same youthful appearance in 1946. Nigel and the others try to identify this woman, who ultimately manifests as an apparition via electrical items, like a television. This may even take precedence over Nigel’s finding a cancer cure, as he’s fixated on the ghostly woman. Answers surely lie in Conrad’s twisted “psychical research”—rife with sinister deeds, including murder. This novel is certainly Lovecraft-ian, particularly Nigel’s growing obsessions and the occasional signs of monstrous forms. Using familiar genre elements, Turner expertly weaves a gripping horror story. The ghostly manifestations are indelible and eerie as the trio gradually unravel the mystery of Conrad’s experiments. Largely unembellished prose allows set pieces to speak for themselves, from traditional moments (dark houses and creaking floors) to the latter half’s unexpected turns. In the same vein, the author’s artwork comprises simple black-and-white sketches of singular items—hauntingly significant to the chapter that each illustration accompanies.

An old-school horror tale that delightfully embraces its inspirations and genre conventions. (author bio)

Pub Date: April 17, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-65-773611-3

Page Count: 253

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

HIDDEN PICTURES

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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