An assembly of refreshing horror tales that unnerve with panache.

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This collection of Ohio-based stories, edited by Landry, revels in the macabre.

The collection’s 18 writers offer a wide range of creepiness—a growing boy’s fixation on snatching people’s teeth; a woman’s repeatedly dying in others’ bodies; and assorted monsters. Megan E. Hart opens this book with a punch. “In the Clearing” follows struggling addict Becka’s hopeful turn as a surrogate mother. The intended parents’ generosity, however, is quickly overshadowed by their unorthodox methods and increasingly grim behavior. Some of the other opening stories are scary but mere teasers for the true terror. War veteran Luis Gomez in Weston Kincade’s “Every Good Deed...,” for example, waits at a hospital for news on his sickly wife, but he stays calm by fidgeting with a grenade. Likewise, young Amanda of Gary A. Braunbeck’s “When Daddy Was All Fixed-Up and Everybody Was Happy” wants somehow to fix her well-known horror writer and psychologically disturbed father. The book’s real star, of course, is Ohio, the state of “fairly friendly” cities, ice cream shops, and wide-open countryside. These tales, however, show what may be hiding underneath, from ghosts at the Ohio State Reformatory to the unsettling figure a housekeeper spots in a cabin in Hocking Hills. Each author writes well, dropping believable characters into fearful or outright terrifying situations, and most readers will knock out (and relish) this book in an afternoon. The collection’s final entry, Lucy A. Snyder’s darkly humorous “Avocation,” takes a slight but welcome detour; a woman on a first date recounts the worst thing she’s ever done. Her buoyant narration (“No, I don’t do threesomes. May I finish my story? Thanks”) stays charming even as she gets closer to confessing her sin.

An assembly of refreshing horror tales that unnerve with panache.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2022

ISBN: 979-8218052232

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Cracked Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022


More style than substance.

Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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