A masterful, thoroughly original spin on a classic tragedy jazzed with action, horror, and Egyptian superstition.

DARK PASSENGER

A twist on the story of the Titanic, accessorized with mummies, grave robbers, and a high priestess.

Kirch’s tale of seafaring horror introduces archaeologist and famed author Dennis Parker, who is busy digging for ancient artifacts in early 1900s Egypt, hoping the “land of treasure” will produce the windfall he greedily craves. Funded by his family fortune, Parker’s excavation, aided by his dutiful and trusty assistant, Amin, of a sacred tomb was illegal; he never secured the necessary dig permits. So his discovery of a 3,000-year-old tomb—containing the mummified remains of the powerful, evil, and greatly feared Egyptian Priestess Ka-Re—was the find of a lifetime. The legend of Ka-Re tells of her obsessive desire to become pharaoh of Egypt by way of capturing and tainting human souls, but ultimately, she was buried alive. Throwing a wrench into his plans to exhume her is Sahish, an exploitive, cutthroat French government official bent on keeping any new discoveries for himself. Meanwhile, the Titanic launches. Shipyard manager Thomas Andrews is surprised to find his longtime friend Parker onboard. And Parker is terrified to find Sahish hot on his trail. Parker convinces Andrews to pick up and transport his precious mummy cargo on the great vessel’s voyage from Ireland to America even while Sahish deviously plots to steal the burial coffin for himself, with horrific results. In a scene straight out of classic horror films, Ka-Re’s putrid, mummified body robotically limps out from the cargo hold bent on mercilessly destroying everything in its path; when her “ancient eyes” meet a victim, she paralyzes him “with the power of a cobra.”

Once Kirch establishes his period-centric collection of central and peripheral characters, including a flirty chambermaid and a retired Jack the Ripper–era Scotland Yard inspector, and launches his clever plot at full sail, the story continues on several interesting detours by way of gory slashing and an Egyptian relic wreaking havoc on the passengers of the storied ship. Kirch captures all of the spectacle, the thrill, and the enchantment from the Titanic’s voyage and whips that well-known event into a frightening horror epic—the first in a planned Tales of Horror & Suspense! series. He also injects Ka-Re with a uniquely vain personality and vivid details, animating her wholly as she stalks the ship enacting a diabolical plan drenched in her victims’ blood and cloaked in ancient magic. Kirch’s most memorable character, Sahish, is consistently greedy and comically disagreeable, but he is no match for that iconic iceberg. This is an engrossing, wonderfully creative, open-ended novel that packs a literary punch and will appeal to readers of noir horror, suspense, and historical fiction.

A masterful, thoroughly original spin on a classic tragedy jazzed with action, horror, and Egyptian superstition.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5211-5065-8

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2020

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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NINTH HOUSE

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: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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