Though many of the same charming characters return from the series debut (The Accidental Alchemist, 2015), the plot this...

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THE MASQUERADING MAGICIAN

An alchemist doing research on a visiting magician suspects he may share her talent, though with less pure motives.

Now that she’s grown accustomed to life with a French-accented, gourmet-cooking, living stone gargoyle named Dorian Robert-Houdin (yes, brought to life by Robert-Houdin, the famous French magician), Zoe Faust is ready for anything. Well, nearly anything, since she’s had the last 330-odd years to prepare, thanks to the Elixir of Life and her longtime practice of alchemy. What Zoe’s not ready for is the strange distance her boyfriend, Max, has kept from her since he returned from visiting his family in China. Zoe’s used to being the partner with secrets, but she’s willing to try to relax with Max on a well-earned night out at a magic show. The visiting performers, billed as Prometheus and Persephone, seem to be regular stage magicians, though Zoe’s neighbor Brixton thinks Prometheus looks familiar. Zoe puts his suspicions out of her head, since she needs to concentrate on learning the secrets of Dorian’s mysterious alchemy text, Non Degenera Alchemia, not listen to the conspiracy theories of a teenage boy. Dorian is counting on Zoe’s dedication to the text. Lately, he hasn’t been able to turn back from his stone state, and he’s worried that one day he’ll become confined within his own body. Both Dorian and Zoe, convinced that the book holds the secrets they need to save Dorian, hope that another alchemist might help Zoe plumb those secrets. When Zoe attends a second showing by the magicians, just to be sure, disaster strikes. Now she knows that there’s something afoot with the out-of-towners, even if it involves murder rather than alchemy.

Though many of the same charming characters return from the series debut (The Accidental Alchemist, 2015), the plot this time is little more than an excuse to trot them out again. Pandian hints that the next installment will focus once more on her main characters, which is what she does best.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7387-4235-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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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Not his best, but a spooky pleasure for King’s boundless legion of fans.

THE OUTSIDER

Horrormeister King (End of Watch, 2016, etc.) serves up a juicy tale that plays at the forefront of our current phobias, setting a police procedural among the creepiest depths of the supernatural.

If you’re a little squeamish about worms, you’re really not going to like them after accompanying King through his latest bit of mayhem. Early on, Ralph Anderson, a detective in the leafy Midwestern burg of Flint City, is forced to take on the unpleasant task of busting Terry Maitland, a popular teacher and Little League coach and solid citizen, after evidence links him to the most unpleasant violation and then murder of a young boy: “His throat was just gone,” says the man who found the body. “Nothing there but a red hole. His bluejeans and underpants were pulled down to his ankles, and I saw something….” Maitland protests his innocence, even as DNA points the way toward an open-and-shut case, all the way up to the point where he leaves the stage—and it doesn’t help Anderson’s world-weariness when the evil doesn’t stop once Terry’s in the ground. Natch, there’s a malevolent presence abroad, one that, after taking a few hundred pages to ferret out, will remind readers of King’s early novel It. Snakes, guns, metempsychosis, gangbangers, possessed cops, side tours to jerkwater Texas towns, all figure in King’s concoction, a bloodily Dantean denunciation of pedophilia. King skillfully works in references to current events (Black Lives Matter) and long-standing memes (getting plowed into by a runaway car), and he’s at his best, as always, when he’s painting a portrait worthy of Brueghel of the ordinary gone awry: “June Gibson happened to be the woman who had made the lasagna Arlene Peterson dumped over her head before suffering her heart attack.” Indeed, but overturned lasagna pales in messiness compared to when the evil entity’s head caves in “as if it had been made of papier-mâché rather than bone.” And then there are those worms. Yuck.

Not his best, but a spooky pleasure for King’s boundless legion of fans.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8098-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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