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

THE SCHOHARIE

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 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot...

THE RULES OF MAGIC

The Owens sisters are back—not in their previous guise as elderly aunties casting spells in Hoffman’s occult romance Practical Magic (1995), but as fledgling witches in the New York City captured in Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids.

In that magical, mystical milieu, Franny and Bridget are joined by a new character: their foxy younger brother, Vincent, whose “unearthly” charm sends grown women in search of love potions. Heading into the summer of 1960, the three Owens siblings are ever more conscious of their family's quirkiness—and not just the incidents of levitation and gift for reading each other's thoughts while traipsing home to their parents' funky Manhattan town house. The instant Franny turns 17, they are all shipped off to spend the summer with their mother's aunt in Massachusetts. Isabelle Owens might enlist them for esoteric projects like making black soap or picking herbs to cure a neighbor's jealousy, but she at least offers respite from their fretful mother's strict rules against going shoeless, bringing home stray birds, wandering into Greenwich Village, or falling in love. In short order, the siblings meet a know-it-all Boston cousin, April, who brings them up to speed on the curse set in motion by their Salem-witch ancestor, Maria Owens. It spells certain death for males who attempt to woo an Owens woman. Naturally this knowledge does not deter the current generation from circumventing the rule—Bridget most passionately, Franny most rationally, and Vincent most recklessly (believing his gender may protect him). In time, the sisters ignore their mother's plea and move to Greenwich Village, setting up an apothecary, while their rock-star brother, who glimpsed his future in Isabelle’s nifty three-way mirror, breaks hearts like there's no tomorrow. No one's more confident or entertaining than Hoffman at putting across characters willing to tempt fate for true love.

Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot twist—delivering everything fans of a much-loved book could hope for in a prequel.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3747-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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