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INCIDENTS AROUND THE HOUSE

Screwy but scarrry!

Frightened by the “Other Mommy” in her bedroom closet who asks her, "Can I go into your heart?,” lonely 8-year-old Bela enters into a horrific waking nightmare involving her whole family.

Set in the fictional small town of Chaps, Michigan, near the other made-up places in dread specialist Malerman’s novels, the story involves a deeply troubled family. Bela’s actual mommy has been cheating on her father, Daddo, whose friendliness and good cheer clash with his wife’s dark streak. Wrapped up in their squabbling and work demands, they’ve neglected to pay attention to Bela. Sweetly seductive in the beginning, Other Mommy offers Bela, who blames herself for the whole mess, a solution. They will trade places, with the Babadook-like presence reincarnated in the girl, and the girl...who knows where she’ll go. “Whatever you do, most of all, don’t allow someone else’s meanness, someone else’s cruelty, to get inside of you,” Daddo lectures Bela. Soon enough, a screaming, shape-shifting version of Other Mommy is revealed to everyone, leading the family to run off to an assortment of supposedly safe places and bring in experts in the spirit business to get rid of Other Mommy. Leave it to Mom and Dad to get so caught up in their plight that they miss half of what Bela has to say. As a result of long monologues about secrets and lost innocence and such, the book loses some of its edge. And though Bela may well be little more than a stick figure by design, that deprives the novel of a deeper dimension. That said, Malerman keeps us in his grip, as he did in his best book, Bird Box (2014). The novel isn’t the original that Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is, but it still deserves a place alongside it on anyone’s Halloween bookshelf.

Screwy but scarrry!

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593723128

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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