An absorbing, suspenseful tale of man versus his bestial nature; entertaining but not for the squeamish.

THE VENTANA WILD MEN

A debut thriller, set in the California wilderness, follows an ambitious TV reporter.

Rebecca January Coulter is an attractive actress with a minor sex scandal in her past, and she hasn’t been shy about using her physical assets to advance her career. She works in Hollywood as a reporter on a reality TV show, chasing weird or offbeat stories for their entertainment potential rather than their news value. Her latest assignment is to check out tales of “wild men” living in the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest, near Big Sur. Her preliminary investigation yields multiple accounts of a “humanoid beast” roaming the woods and harassing campers, complete with eyewitness accounts and grainy video. The possibility of a sensational encounter with a Bigfoot-like creature is enough to get January assigned to flesh out the story into a full on-air segment. She heads into the wilderness with a backpack and four technicians lugging sophisticated sound and video equipment in hopes of capturing a glimpse of the “wild men.” She and her crew get more than they bargained for when they become embroiled in a deadly contest with Robert Bruckner, a desperate criminal who’s submerged himself into the forest and evolved into a heartless predator bent on survival at any cost. In this diverting novel, Wise has crafted a page-turner that explores what can happen when a toxic combination of bad luck, abandonment, and a rash act of extreme violence strips away the veneer of civilization from a man. The engrossing book is divided into three parts, with January narrating her thoughts and experiences in the first and third sections and a third-person account of fugitive Bruckner’s story sandwiched in between. Though the pacing is a bit uneven and the violence depicted is often gruesome, the characterization is vivid, with January especially coming to life on the page. But the abrupt ending leaves the reader unsatisfied, with a lot of questions hanging.

An absorbing, suspenseful tale of man versus his bestial nature; entertaining but not for the squeamish.

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4834-6592-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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

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THE INSTITUTE

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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