Intelligent and ambitious, but also heavy-handed and alienating.

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THE VANISHERS

A dour heroine tracks her psychic attacker in this dark latest from Julavits (The Uses of Enchantment, 2006, etc.).

At New Hampshire’s Institute of Integrated Parapsychology, Julia Severn is selected to record Madame Ackerman’s words as she roams the cosmos. But Madame Ackerman’s “regressions” are actually extended naps, so Julia begins inventing psychic revelations. Shortly after Julia envisions actual information sought by a client of Ackerman’s, who is trying to find controversial filmmaker Dominique Varga, she becomes so ill she has to leave the Institute. A year later, mysterious new acquaintance Colophon Martin tells Julia she is the victim of psychic attacks by Madame Ackerman. Her only solution is to avail herself of the services of his company, vanish.org, which helps people disappear from untenable lives. Colophon offers to help Julia because he’s that former client of Madame Ackerman’s; Julia’s psychic abilities have been suppressed by her ailments, and he needs her to get well to find Varga, who disappeared in 1984. Julia’s willing, because her anxious father has revealed that her mother, an artist who committed suicide when Julia was one month old, knew Varga, who “made your mother believe death could be an artistic act.” The connections only grow more sinister (and far-fetched) after Julia checks in to the Goergen, a refuge in Vienna for vanishers of various sorts. What is the true identity of the fellow resident who claims to be “Hungarian skin care royalty?” Is Madame Ackerman behind the emails Julia keeps getting from “aconcernedfriend”? What happened in Room 13, 152 West 53rd Street, on October 24, 1984? Julia’s ailments recede, and her psychic powers grow, but she still seems clueless as the story lumbers towards an extremely elaborate denouement culminating in a confrontation with Madame Ackerman. A searing final section very nearly redeems all this clutter, as Julia returns to New Hampshire to unmask the real culprit and to make the grimmest sort of settlement with her dead mother.

Intelligent and ambitious, but also heavy-handed and alienating.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-52381-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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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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This riveting Gothic thriller explores the limits of love, guilt, and punishment.

THE SHAPE OF NIGHT

Running away from the memory of a New Year’s Eve party gone terribly wrong, food writer Ava Collette escapes Boston for a remote Maine village only to face a haunted house and a murder investigation.

Bestselling author of the Rizzoli & Isles series, Gerritsen (I Know a Secret, 2017, etc.) returns with a spellbinding thriller. The focus stays tightly on the experience of the potential victim, Ava, which enables Gerritsen to spin a tight web. Entangled in her own guilt, Ava isolates herself further and further, avoiding calls from her sister and living alone in the ominous Brodie’s Watch mansion, named for its builder, a shipping master lost to sea more than a hundred years ago. Although Brodie’s Watch initially frightens Ava, the moment she steps over the threshold, she feels inexplicably welcomed. Indeed, she is most welcome, as the shadows in her bedroom coalesce into the shape of a man, a man who may well be the ghost of Capt. Brodie. He stalks the house most nights, seducing Ava into not only the passions of love, but also atonement through punishment meted out for her sins. And so Gerritsen shifts a murder mystery into a Gothic thriller, replete with an unsteady widow’s walk, secret alcove, strange smells, ominous sensations, and the ghost. Even the prologue echoes the dream of Manderley from Du Maurier’s Rebecca. But then a dead body washes ashore, and the police investigation suggests the dead woman was killed before she hit the water. Fearful that her spectral lover may be a real-life murderer, Ava inquires about Charlotte Nielson, the young woman who rented Brodie’s Watch before her and left in an inexplicable hurry. But Ava’s investigation uncovers a disturbing list of dead women, which the townspeople seem to have spackled over. Who are they protecting?

This riveting Gothic thriller explores the limits of love, guilt, and punishment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2095-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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