A spook fest that wisely centers on strong characters and lurid prose.

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A MONSTER ON THE MOORS

A BOBBY HOLMES THRILLER

In this YA sequel, a group of friends becomes convinced the creature terrorizing an English countryside is not an escaped beast but an ancient evil.

Londoner Bobby Holmes is looking forward to a vacation with his Scotland Yard inspector mum, Melanie, in northern England. But he’s especially excited that his American cousin, Brenda Watson, and their friends Stevie Nichols and Michael Kelleher will be joining him. It’s been a year since the four shared an adventure in Connecticut, where they confronted a ghost pirate. Bobby learned to accept his gift of clairvoyance back then, but a recent vision (jumbled images of a darkened forest and his pals in trouble) has him worried about the upcoming vacation. Upon Melanie and Bobby’s arrival in the North York Moors, a stranger grabs the boy and whispers a vague warning that he is in danger. Their driver to the Wolf’s Head Inn, James Thwackett, also has “Second Sight” and, like Bobby, senses something amiss. Someone later uncovers a bloody, mutilated body that a local constable wants to attribute to an abused animal turned wild. But Bobby rejects that theory, particularly after receiving additional warnings of peril. He believes there’s an ancient evil roaming the Moors, and stopping it entails first researching the area’s history and talking to townsfolk, with help from his mates and James. Unexpectedly, one of Bobby’s friends disappears, and the ensuing rescue attempt leads to a malevolence far deadlier than the group could have imagined. Kelly (Tommy Ails, Good for What Ails You, 2015, etc.) establishes the story’s malice with a sensational opening: the harrowing pursuit of an unknown woman is presented from the beastly aggressor’s point of view. This frenzied scene amplifies the atmospheric scenes that follow. On the ride to the inn, for example, Bobby spots a pub waiter inexplicably glaring at him. The boy subsequently visits fog-laden Whitby, the town that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While the much-teased titular monster does make an appearance, it’s suspense that drives the narrative. The mere notion of the creature, for one, solidified by the discovered corpse, is enough to make any visit to the Moors unnerving, even for gun-toting Melanie. The author treats Bobby’s clairvoyance pragmatically; it’s a trait he doesn’t seem to have mastered, as he never fully comprehends his near-future visions. Fortunately, his friends, sans paranormal abilities, are just as memorable. Michael, who has Asperger’s syndrome, points upward when speaking to help him concentrate on what he wants to say. Similarly, imperfections only enhance characters’ personalities: sometimes abrasive Stevie mocks British vernacular (he prefers the term flashlight over torch) while Brenda literally takes candy from a stranger (though the stranger is a cute, flirty boy). Kelly’s savvy writing is filled with stirring descriptions: “The tilted headstones fanned out across the area like crooked teeth” and “The sun dropped like a stone, and with it, the temperature.” The satisfying climax is over a bit too soon, but readers will undoubtedly be invested in this thriller series and ready for whatever Bobby, et al., tackle next.

A spook fest that wisely centers on strong characters and lurid prose.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 247

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2018

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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