An enjoyable, laudable addition to an increasingly complicated vampire saga with no end in sight.

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UNDAUNTED

From the Blood Bond Saga series , Vol. 3

A woman and her vampire boyfriend face rogue vamps and a looming evil darkness in this third installment of an erotic thriller series.

New Orleans emergency room nurse Erin Hamilton has come to terms with the fact that her lover, Dante Gabriel, is a vampire. But that’s just one of a handful of surprises: Erin learns that her best friend, Lucy, is a wolf shifter while Dante’s father, Julian, who’d been missing, has returned as a ghost. Dante searches for his father’s body so he can file a death certificate and claim Julian’s estate, using the money to fund a translation of the Vampyre Texts. He believes the ancient tome will have answers to his and Erin’s enigmatic blood bond as well as the inexplicable disappearances of patients (with the same blood type) at the hospital where she works. Unfortunately, his grandfather Bill is reluctant to let Dante have the book, certain that it will lead his grandson to “darkness.” As for Erin, her worries start to mount: Lucy mysteriously vanishes and a gang of rogue vampires pursues the nurse, whose scent is evidently “irresistible.” She’s also been experiencing vivid dreams, including the vampire gang cornering her for an obvious assault. Dante, meanwhile, who spent a decade in still-unexplained captivity, hones his unrefined vampiric glamouring skill but may be more powerful than he thinks. The voice of his former captor, the unknown “queen,” occasionally forces its way into Dante’s head, and it’s clear she has a sinister plan brewing. Hardt’s (Unhinged, 2018, etc.) ongoing saga shows no signs of slowing down. Series-long questions, like the queen’s identity, persistently linger, and the story adds a few mysteries to the mix. Erin discovers a doctor who’d disappeared along with the missing patients, but he remembers very little about the person who beat him and held him hostage. This volume, however, does allot time for supporting characters to take the spotlight. Voodoo priestess and medium Bea, who first appeared in the preceding installment, proves a formidable ally for Erin and Dante. Her spells offer some protection, such as masking Erin’s scent from the rogue vampires. Other characters are forming couples, precipitating engaging subplots (Dante’s sister, Emilia, is pregnant, and childbirth is difficult, sometimes fatal, for female vampires). But the continuing romance between Erin and Dante is the most appealing relationship while the copious sex scenes are erotic and healthy. For example, though Dante becomes gradually more aggressive in bed and Erin is typically submissive, it’s apparent that both partners are willing and content. Many of the mysteries, whether new or carry-overs, are unresolved by this novel’s end, which may frustrate some readers. Nevertheless, suspense remains high throughout, as characters are in all sorts of peril, including the indistinct but unnerving darkness. The author defines this abstract evil simply and persuasively: “An electric bolt jarred me back to normal. The darkness. It was here.”

An enjoyable, laudable addition to an increasingly complicated vampire saga with no end in sight.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64263-048-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Waterhouse Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2018

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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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