An absorbing story of addiction, deceit, and perpetual menace.

SPLURGE DEALERS & BANSHEE ADDICTS

A U.S. government agent in the near future stumbles onto a conspiracy to brainwash citizens in Goodman’s debut thriller.

It’s 2023, and the latest assignment for agent Hunter Leary of the Domestic Central Intelligence Agency is looking into a documentary film, currently in production, about Project Oedipus, an alleged “deep-state conspiracy to addict [American] leaders and create sex scandals,” as a Variety article put it. However, the main purpose for DCIA’s formation was to investigate the Hidden Ones, who are rumored to be responsible for many nefarious activities. The group, which has existed for a century, is known by other names, such as “the Freemasons” or “the Illuminati,” and their existence was only confirmed two years ago. Currently, Hunter and his new partner, Sammi Pringle, are keeping an eye on a different secret society, known as the Nameless, which apparently has a plan to control “key players” in society with “some sort of sexual brainwashing.” Hunter is a capable DCIA agent, but he’s also a habitual user of the drug Splurge, which he believes enhances his senses. But its potential benefits may not be enough to help him take on the members of the shady organizations that surround him. Hunter’s first-person narration is framed as a historical account, but the overall story plays out like a well-paced thriller. Shifts to a third-person perspective reveal characters’ furtive agendas and shocking deaths. Moreover, there’s an overarching mystery of how Splurge, as well as Banshees—“neotech-networks” that offer “instantaneous, emotional connections with every other user currently online”—will spawn an imminent “Great Addiction.” Despite this story’s reliance on abstract ideas, Goodman provides readers with plenty of concrete details, as in descriptions of Hunter’s Splurge highs (“Thoughts arrange themselves into a regular order, like an architectural structure”). The tale also features explicit sexual encounters and copious amounts of bodily fluids. The conclusion is satisfying, but there’s definite room for a sequel, particularly as readers learn relatively little about the titular Banshees.

An absorbing story of addiction, deceit, and perpetual menace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 247

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2020

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Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

HOUR OF THE WITCH

A Puritan wife shocks her community and risks her life to file for divorce in 1662 Boston.

For more than five years, Mary, age 24, has been married to Thomas, 45, a prosperous miller. Thomas has been physically and sexually abusive, always taking care that there are no witnesses. He castigates Mary’s intelligence, telling her she has “white meat” for brains. The marriage is childless, drawing community suspicion to Mary. When she can’t hide bruises on her face, she lies about their provenance. The behavior, she tells herself, only occurs when Thomas is “drink-drunk.” The coverup continues until, cold sober, Thomas drives a fork into Mary’s hand, breaking bones. She flees to her parents’ home and files for divorce, which is allowed but only if grounds can be proven. Forks are a major motif: Not merely newfangled “cutlery” which Mary’s father, a shipping entrepreneur, hopes to profit from importing, but miniature pitchforks viewed by the Puritans as “Devil’s tines.” The forks, as well as other clues—a mysterious pestle, a pentagram etched on a door frame—are used to counter Mary’s compelling, but unwitnessed, claims of cruelty with insinuations of witchcraft. Divorce denied, Mary must return to the marital home and resort to ever more drastic expedients in her quest for freedom. Mary comes from privilege, and her parents clearly care about her. (Unlike the divorce magistrates, they don’t believe she injured her hand by falling on a tea kettle spout.) That they allow her return to Thomas to avoid witchcraft charges defies plausibility—death at Thomas’ hands seems a more immediate prospect, and her family wealth affords many other options. The charges come anyway—timed for maximum melodrama. The language, salted liberally with thee and thou, feels period-authentic. The colonists’ impact on nearby Native tribes is not Bohjalian’s primary concern here, but the Hobson’s choice facing women in Puritan society is starkly delineated.

Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54243-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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