Sure, the premise is altogether improbable. But, that said, there’s good fun to be had here, even for those who might wish...

SHADOW OF NIGHT

From the All Souls Trilogy series , Vol. 2

William Shakespeare, vampire hunter.

Well, not exactly. But, thanks to the magic of time travel, Harkness’ (A Discovery of Witches, 2011) latest finds witch and Oxford professor Diana Bishop and her lover, scientist and vampire Matthew Clairmont, at the tail end of Elizabethan England, when Shakespeare’s career is about to take off. There, by happenstance, they meet Christopher Marlowe, who commands an uncommonly rich amount of data about the ways of the otherworld. Asked why the odd couple should attract attention, he remarks matter-of-factly, “Because witches and wearhs are forbidden to marry,” an exchange that affords Diana, and the reader, the chance to learn a new word. Diana and Matthew talk a lot. They argue a lot, too, quibbling about the strangest things: “ ‘You are a vampire. You’re possessive. It’s who you are,’ I said flatly, approaching him in spite of his anger. ‘And I am a witch. You promised to accept me as I am—light and dark, woman and witch, my own person as well as your wife.’ ” But then they get to have extremely hot—indeed, unnaturally hot, given the cold blood of the undead—makeup sex, involving armoires and oak paneling and lifted petticoats and gripped buttocks. Meanwhile, Kit Marlowe gets to do some petticoat lifting of his own, even if his adventures lead him to a Bedlam populated by all kinds of unfortunate souls, from a few ordinary wackaloons of yore to a small army of daemons, witches, vampires and other exemplars of the damned and doomed. Will Shakespeare comes onto the scene late, but there’s good reason for that—and maybe a little fodder for the Edward de Vere conspiratorial crowd, too. Clearly Harkness has great fun with all this, and her background as a literature professor gives her plenty of room to work with, and without, an ounce of pedantry. 

Sure, the premise is altogether improbable. But, that said, there’s good fun to be had here, even for those who might wish for a moratorium on books about vampires, zombies, witches and other things that go bump in the night.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02348-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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

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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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