Tooth & Talon by James Lee

Tooth & Talon

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Vampires, otherworldly creatures, and human killers populate Lee’s debut collection of horror and suspense stories.

In the opening story, “Devil Beneath,” Marion hears scratching sounds and thuds from the crawl space under her house, as if something were trying to make its way aboveground. This is the essence of Lee’s book, brimming with stories that are refreshingly subtle while often hinting at the supernatural. The titular beast in “Closet Monster,” for example, torments 7-year-old Jeremy with glimpses of its talons and eyes in the blackness of night. Similarly, David becomes a captive while on an Alaskan trip in “Northern Lights,” a straightforward story that’s chilling even before its preternatural twist at the end. Nevertheless, humans prove just as creepy, as in “Snowball’s Chance,” in which Samuel Piejak and police officers search for his daughter, Coleen, who readers know has already been taken by someone unhinged. Disturbed individuals also highlight “The Tale” and “The Field,” stories that, despite their misleadingly humdrum titles, are delightfully ambiguous (i.e., there might be a supernatural element to explain what’s been taking place). In the book’s best story, “King of the Road,” hateful white-collar worker Jerry McIntyre slowly develops road rage on his commute to and from the office. But unlike other drivers, Jerry, giving in to his interstate fury, somehow finds a way to clear the road of unsafe motorists who’d dare occupy his lane. It’s undoubtedly satire but manages to be simultaneously wry and bizarre, if not outright terrifying. Some stories in Lee’s book are connected by characters who crop up more than once, which can enhance the narrative. It’s particularly unsettling, for instance, when one man, who doesn’t survive his initial appearance, is alive in the very next story. The strongest link involves the final tale, which follows Lester, Marion’s missing husband from the first story—alternate perspectives that serve as fascinating bookends.

Eerie, entertaining tales whose recurring themes and characters make them stronger.

Pub Date: July 20th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9966058-0-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: 2nd Sight LLC
Program: Kirkus Indie
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