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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A waterlogged ghost tale.

THE CHILL

In the pseudonymous Carson’s debut, something uncanny has awakened in the swelling depths of upstate New York’s Chilewaukee Reservoir, aka “The Chill.”

It’s been nearly 80 years since the town of Galesburg was flooded to build the Chilewaukee, and the town didn’t go easy. A small contingent of people rebelled, leading to shocking acts of violence. Since then, an otherworldly evil has been waiting for the right time to take revenge against those responsible for destroying the town, which, on a clear day, can still be glimpsed just under the surface of the Chill. Opportunity presents itself in the form of Mick Fleming, chief engineer with the state’s division of dam safety, whose grandfather designed the dam. During an inspection, Mick’s concerns for the safety and integrity of the Chill—especially in light of recent unrelenting rain—are eclipsed by the appearance of a strange photographer who looks like a figure out of time, and Mick soon finds himself not quite in his right mind. Meanwhile, Gillian Mathers, an officer with the Department of Environmental Protection Police who has old familial ties to Galesburg, is sucked in when she responds to a report of an inexplicable murder at the dam that turns out to be something far stranger. Gillian, Mick, and others are soon drawn in by an insidious force, and inevitably, the sins of the past tragically collide with the present. The premise brims with creepy potential, and readers will learn more than they ever thought they wanted to know about dams and the challenges of harnessing a relentless force of nature that is often taken for granted. However, the meandering plot and muddled mythology eventually give way to scenes from a disaster film, with a thinly fleshed-out cast failing to provide the necessary emotional heft.

A waterlogged ghost tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-0459-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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