A big book that will no doubt be a hit among monster-movie and horror lit fans—and for good reason.

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DRACUL

Very scary, boys and girls: the “prequel” to the classic 19th-century novel Dracula, with lots of gore thrown in to satisfy 21st-century tastes.

Stoker (Dracula: The Undead, 2009) has the name, Barker (The Fifth to Die, 2018, etc.) has the chops, and both work from an intriguing notion: When Bram Stoker shaped his novel—originally billed as a work of nonfiction—for publication, the first 102 pages were taken out by the publisher. What if they contained crucial details concerning origins, setting up future conflicts while clearing up mysteries? This foundational novel makes Bram a central character in his own story, which “finds its roots in truth.” What’s more, Bram is haunted by memory: A sickly child, he was bedridden, tended to by a woman named Ellen Crone, who here joins the ranks of the undead but, for all that, has some redeeming qualities, even if people tend to die and go missing whenever she’s around. In healthier adulthood, Bram and his siblings go off in search of Ellen, who’s disappeared—only to be spotted, years later, not having aged a bit. (Incidentally, Ellen and her fellow vamps can walk in sunlight; it just enervates them.) Well, strange doings are afoot, and those strange doings involve a preternaturally sinister chappy of grim countenance and sharp fang. Stoker and Barker positively exult in Dracul’s ability to control all manner of underground critters, including tower-climbing snakes and other creepy-crawlies, and their gross-out stuff can’t be beat: “The shroud felt moist, as if it were covered with some kind of bile or slime; it was akin to reaching into the carcass of some dead thing and taking hold of the stomach." It’s a lively if unlovely story, in which the once febrile Bram becomes a sort of Indiana Jones and other heroes emerge in the endless fight against the damned—some of whom, of course, remain undead for further adventures.

A big book that will no doubt be a hit among monster-movie and horror lit fans—and for good reason.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1934-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel.

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DEATH IN HER HANDS

A note suggesting a woman has been killed in the woods captures the imagination of an elderly woman, with alarming intensity.

Vesta, the extremely unreliable narrator of Moshfegh’s fourth novel (My Year of Rest and Relaxation, 2018, etc.), is a 72-year-old widow who’s recently purchased a new home, a cabin on a former Girl Scout camp. Walking her dog through the nearby woods, she sees a note lying on the ground which says that a woman named Magda has been killed "and here is her dead body," but there's no body there or any sign of violence. Call the police? Too easy: Instead, Vesta allows herself to be consumed with imagining what Magda might have been like and the circumstances surrounding her murder. Whatever the opposite of Occam’s razor is, Vesta’s detective work is it: After some web searching on how mystery writers do their work, she surmises that Magda was a Belarussian teen sent to the United States to work at a fast-food restaurant, staying in the basement of a woman whose son, Blake, committed the murder. Moshfegh on occasion plays up the comedy of Vesta’s upside-down thinking: “A good detective presumes more than she interrogates.” But Vesta slowly reveals herself as what we might now call a Moshfegh-ian lead: a woman driven to isolation and feeling disassociated from herself, looking for ways to cover up for a brokenness she's loath to confront. Over the course of the novel, Vesta’s projections about Magda's identity become increasingly potent and heartbreaking symbols of wounds from the narrator's childhood and marriage. The judgmental voice of her late husband, Walter, keeps rattling in her head, and she defiantly insists that “I didn’t want Walter in my mindspace anymore. I wanted to know things on my own.” You simultaneously worry about Vesta and root for her, and Moshfegh’s handling of her story is at once troubling and moving.

An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel. (This book has been postponed; we'll update the publication date when it's available.)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7935-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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