Plenty of standouts are on display in this gruesome grab bag of literary terror.

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EVIL IN TECHNICOLOR

Ten spooky stories pay tribute to the wicked delights of classic and modern gothic horror fiction in this anthology.

Editor McDermott combines aspects of horror and fantasy in this deliciously dark volume probing the depths of the unexplained and the nature of evil. The collection immediately evokes an edgy rather than an overly frightening tone with Stina Leicht’s moody “Forgiveness Is Warm Like a Tear on the Cheek.” The tale features a man wrestling with ghosts from his past in a reputedly haunted, three-story Victorian house where spirits reside in an adjacent cemetery. In order to bury the unresolved demons in his past, he must confront some present-day scares (and a few apparitions) first. Fans of deep blue ocean waters will appreciate the murky mystery emerging from the depths of the Mediterranean in fantasy writer E. Catherine Tobler’s superbly disturbing “Blue Hole, Red Sea.” A female archaeology diver confronts an ominous hieroglyphic obelisk and a majestic temple honoring female gods. McDermott’s story selections conjure a devilish panoply of players, ranging from the desperate actor in Rhiannon Rasmussen’s vampiric fantasy “The Maidens of Midnight” who finally gets her big break playing a “monster and a lesbian” to a magician prodded to teach an eager follower “real magic” in Adam Gallardo’s “The Ultimate Secret of Magic” and the young, wildly imaginative writer and Ayn Rand fan who spends her summer vacation crafting a horror novel in Molly Tanzer’s “Summer Camp Would Have Been a Lot Cheaper."

Vampires, even those who are killed only to be resurrected by their younger counterparts, reign supreme in Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s menacingly comic monster mashup “Hammerville.” The story references the British movie production company responsible for the gothic “Hammer Horror” films of the 1950s through the ’70s. Most tales immediately sweep readers into their atmospheric nightmares, like Craig Laurance Gidney’s “Myth and Moor,” which stars a child who seamlessly converses with a witch and the ghost of a missing kid on the heath outside her home. Still others are masterful in their slow-burn narrative setups that then spring horrific denouements on unsuspecting readers. This is true of the haunted, Maine-based B&B featured in Haralambi Markov’s cinematic gorefest “The Midnight Feast,” where a final, breathless countdown spells sheer terror. In this volume, McDermott, a co-editor of the collection of futuristic crime short fiction The Way of the Laser (2020), combines novelettes with shorter vignettes to an impressive extent. His anthology will appeal to readers of both modern horror fiction and the classic genre yarns derived from the black-and-white and early color film eras. A character in A.C. Wise’s ghost-story homage to classic horror, titled “A Thousand Faces Minus One,” says a timely, eerily relevant mouthful when she quips: “People love hidden histories and conspiracy theories.” These same readers and many more will savor this collection of the sinister, the kooky, and the creepy.

Plenty of standouts are on display in this gruesome grab bag of literary terror.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-952283-03-1

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Vernacular Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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All of Pendergast’s adventures are weird and wonderful fun, and this is no exception.

BLOODLESS

FBI Special Agent Pendergast and his cohorts face great peril as they try to find out what’s bleeding a Georgia city dry.

In 1971, the mysterious hijacker D.B. Cooper parachutes from a commercial airliner with a bundle of cash in the remote northwest and is never heard from again. A half-century later, Aloysius X.L. Pendergast and colleague Armstrong Coldmoon are sent to Savannah, Georgia, to investigate a “most peculiar incident”: a body has washed ashore with nary a drop of blood left in the corpse. A reader’s first thought might be What’s that got to do with an old hijacking? Leave it to the imaginations of Preston and Child to eventually make the delightfully strange connection. Pendergast looks every bit the stereotypical undertaker, not at all fitting the FBI mold. He brings along his adult “ward,” Constance Greene, who brings her stiletto everywhere she goes. Meanwhile, bloodless bodies accumulate. Who could possibly be committing these frightful atrocities? And why only in Savannah? That one’s easy: because it’s a spooky old city “with its gnarled trees and crooked houses,” and everything about the plot is spooky and surreal. A film crew prepares to create a phony documentary in a graveyard using smoke machines and showing callous disregard for the dead. A scheming U.S. senator frets that the rapid escalation in ghastly violence will hurt his reelection prospects, and he pressures the FBI for a rapid solution. Unfortunately, the killer makes an unholy mess of the city, sucking out its Southern charm along with plenty of blood. He—she—let’s settle on it—turns the tale into one of more horror than crime. Without Pendergast’s perspicacity, Coldmoon’s competence, and Constance’s cojones (figuratively, of course), that old city of mint juleps would be a smoking hole in the ground. And readers wouldn’t learn about D.B. Cooper’s fate. The authors’ imaginations run unfettered as they travel to unearthly locales, but in the end it comes down to beleaguered Savannah.

All of Pendergast’s adventures are weird and wonderful fun, and this is no exception.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3670-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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