An assembly of refreshing horror tales that unnerve with panache.

THAT WHICH CANNOT BE UNDONE

AN OHIO HORROR ANTHOLOGY

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

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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