An original and imaginative mix of macabre lore and psychological horror.


A bridge collapse becomes complicated by an outbreak of Native American sorcery in this debut supernatural thriller.

When a wet spring in upstate New York leads to heavy flooding and the collapse of a bridge over the Schoharie Creek, soccer coach and fireman Aaron Bonner almost drives his pickup into the suddenly gaping chasm on the I-90 thruway. Even more unsettling is the apparition of a Native American warrior in buckskin, war paint, and a braid beckoning Aaron from across the gap. More frightening visions plague Aaron as he does emergency flood work: He sees the warrior, who is invisible to others, scalping the corpse of a drowned motorist and starts hearing the voices of dead people shrieking inside his head. He thinks he is going crazy, as do his girlfriend, Sara Harrigan, and her dad, Ben, a hard-bitten sheriff with a prickly attitude toward him who remembers that Aaron’s half-Iroquois father also exhibited bouts of insane violence before he was killed by police. Things escalate when the warrior manages to cut off Aaron’s toe. The talisman enables the warrior to turn Aaron into a puppet compelled to repeat any act he pantomimes, no matter how horrifying. Johnson creates a believable world of small-town people and first responders with long memories and complex relationships as a setting for eruptions of eeriness. She writes vivid action and flood scenes, filled with “the rush of untamed water, the splatter of the endless downpour, the grunts and shouts of workforce prisoners who heaved sandbags to and fro, and the whining motors of rescue boats fighting a swift current.” In her evocative prose, the novel’s magic feels both realistic and picturesque. (Gathering his powers for a catastrophic strike, the warrior “held out his arms as if presenting the sky with a large and bulky gift,” then “dropped the imaginary package…as if it had gained an obscene amount of weight.”) Aaron’s helpless subjection to a malevolent force that no one else perceives makes for a queasily terrifying read.

An original and imaginative mix of macabre lore and psychological horror.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5439-0767-4

Page Count: 254

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Leaving Viking for the storied literary patina of Scribner, current or not, King seemingly strives on the page for a less vulgar gloss. And he eases from horror into romantic suspense, while adding dollops of the supernatural. The probable model: structural echoes of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca do sound forth, although King never writes one paragraph herein to match du Maurier’s opening moonscapes of Manderley. What comes through nevertheless is a strong pull to upgrade his style and storytelling in this his 50th year. Yes, he actually does write better if with less energy and power than in Desperation (1996). In fact, attacking the race problem in lily-white Maine, he even assumes an almost Dreiserian seriousness in his final paragraphs. Well, the story: romantic-suspense novelist Michael Noonan, who summers in Castle Rock on Dark Score Lake, falls into a four-year writer’s block when his wife Johanna dies of a brain blowout. Now 40 and childless, Mike has salted away four extra novel manuscripts in his safe-deposit box, one of them 11 years old (shades of Richard Bachman!), and keeps up a pretense of productivity by publishing a “new” novel each year. Meanwhile, he finds himself falling for Mattie Devore, a widowed mother half his age. Mattie’s late husband is the son of still-thriving half-billionaire computer king Max Devore, 85 years old and monstrous, who plans to gain possession of Mattie’s three-year-old daughter, the banally drawn Kyra. Mike’s first big question: Did Johanna cuckold him during his long hours writing? If so, will her character reverse our understanding of her, as does Rebecca de Winter’s? And how can he help Mattie fight off Max and keep Kyra? The supernatural elements, largely reserved for the interracial climax, are Standard King but fairly mild. Philosophically limited but a promising artistic shift for a writer who tried something like this with 1995’s failure, Rose Madder.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-85350-7

Page Count: 529

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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