An offbeat set of horror stories that impart subtle, rather than raw, shocks.


The Holy Innocents and Other Stories

Short story writer Bird (Nightmare and Nostalgia, 2013) offers five tales of the fantastic, most involving haunted (or haunting) females.

The author makes ghost stories her specialty in this collection, and hers are of an especially gentle variety, grounded more in emotion than horror, with very few things likely to say “boo.” However, it’s not the sole genre in her repertoire. In the title tale, Holy Innocents is a Catholic convent/orphanage in Cincinnati, taking in children during the depths of the Depression as a flu epidemic ravages the city. The narrator, Agnes, lovingly looks after one newcomer, Lizzie, but seems to never interact with the other nuns or children. (Readers get one guess at the benevolent Agnes’ true nature.) Bird distinguishes her tales with pleasing, well-chosen language, and the second, “Magnetic Attraction,” is a standout: an imagining of the fractured family relationships of scientist-spouses Marie and Pierre that uses wordplay and terminology derived from physics and chemistry (although it’s set during a séance, naturally). “A Serpent in Paradise” is the lone sci-fi entry and also the only one from a male point of view. In it, a developer despoiling Brazilian rain forests encounters a fungus that normally infects ants and alters their behavior; now, however, it’s aiming higher up the food chain. In “Monster,” the spirit of a dancer resents her early death and forcibly and grotesquely reincarnates itself in a random woman, resulting in a medical anomaly. The closer, “Walk-In,” describes an eager ghost possessing a willing host—a mentally unstable wife and mother. Readers can finish this collection in the time it takes to watch a Creepshow-style horror-film anthology. The tales don’t have that movie’s gore, but they do offer consistency, intelligence and a few haunting notions.

An offbeat set of horror stories that impart subtle, rather than raw, shocks.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499182101

Page Count: 88

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.


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.


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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