Despite the hints of a promising Hitchcock-ian thriller, this murder tale fails to live up to its potential.

ESKER

Mysterious creatures and gruesome killings terrorize a New England town in this horror novel.

In 1964, a young boy is disemboweled in a storm drain under the Esker in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Rescuers fail to recover the boy’s body when it’s dragged off by a predator covered in seaweed with yellow eyes (“Stopping for a moment, the creature started to growl; a slow, deep growl that made the storm drain feel even colder than its concrete walls”). The image sticks with rookie firefighter Paul Tobin and seasoned Capt. Butch Hunt. Eleven years later, they experience an eerie sense of déjà vu when another boy goes missing. This time, the incident sets off a string of murders, each more horrific than the last. A park ranger is violently beaten and dragged from her vehicle. A young couple are ambushed and slaughtered, with nothing left but severed feet to attest to their presence. As the list of the missing and the dead grows, the firemen and Park Ranger Ryan Gallagher lead a dangerous search for the creature (or creatures) that hunts in the storm drains under the earth. Tracey (Tales from the Tables, 2014, etc.) has the makings of an excellent horror story. The initial murders are shocking, and the presence of an unknown entity lurking under a popular park is wonderfully disturbing. The first disappearance is wrought with tension as rescuers struggle to find a missing boy in the face of a howling storm and rising tides, with the young victim’s screams of pain echoing in their ears. But the book loses steam as the narrative progresses. What ensues is a litany of homicides that lacks emotional impact once the initial shock value of death wears off. There is little character development, resulting in a dearth of emotional connection to the victims or the rescue team. As the body count rises, the absence of a deeper plot becomes noticeable. Why the sudden killings? Is there something in the history of the town? There must be more to the story than a string of violent episodes. An abrupt ending and unexpected reveal leave more questions than answers, perhaps a nod toward an impending sequel or two.

Despite the hints of a promising Hitchcock-ian thriller, this murder tale fails to live up to its potential.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-5464-1

Page Count: 150

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2017

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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