A harder-edged story than its predecessor in this diverting series.

RITES OF PASSAGE

A young man slowly turns into a vampire while a woman flees a blood cult and its barbaric leader in the second of Robinson’s (Silently Comes the Night, 2013) supernatural series.

Thomas Kline and his vampire (here called “vampyr”) girlfriend, Majken, barely survived a murderous vamp’s attack, but in the process, Thomas’ blood was mixed with Majken’s. He’s gradually experiencing The Change as his body adapts to a blood-only diet. Fearing he may harm his parents or baby sis, Kimberly, Thomas flees from his South Carolina family home and eventually meets fellow vampyr Jeanine. Jeanine has escaped from a blood cult with 7-year-old Alecia, cult-leader Nolan’s daughter, whom he’d planned to sacrifice. Nolan’s just behind them, however, ready to grab Alecia and anyone else in the way. It’s up to Majken and aspiring journalist Kimberly to find—and possibly save—Thomas. The author establishes his contemporary vampyrs right away. They may not be human, but they aren’t undead, and blood isn’t consumed for pleasure but rather sustenance. They likewise aren’t bloodsuckers, opting for knives or needles to procure their nourishment. While Thomas was the preceding novel’s protagonist, this time Robinson wisely shifts the focus to multiple characters. The engaging Jeanine is a mother to Alecia, whom she’s practically raised, and faces real-world concerns, like trying to find a job. Nolan, too, is terrifying, less because he’s a bloodsucker then because he’s an abusive, unhinged man. Thomas has evolved; once skeptical that Majken was a vampyr, he does a few horrific deeds in the course of changing, including attacking Kimberly. Robinson’s vampyrs may be missing fangs, but other traits are more conventional, such as an aversion to sunlight, heightened senses, and prolonged youth—Majken looks college age but is pushing 300. Descriptions are sometimes too vague, like Jeanine’s unwitting blood donor who’s “kinda passed out” or Thomas’ “hard to describe” sickness. But Robinson develops his characters with skill; they’re more or less typical people caught in exacting circumstances.

A harder-edged story than its predecessor in this diverting series.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1492387077

Page Count: 466

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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