A femme fatale heroine, a crime that mustn’t be solved: noir turned merrily upside down.

MURDER FOR THE MODERN GIRL

Is she a glam, airhead flapper—or a serial killer of wicked men?

It’s 1927, and 18-year-old Ruby, the daughter of the state’s attorney, is known as someone who’s always up for a good time, a gorgeous party girl who dances with all the fellows. Nobody knows that Ruby can read minds, so none of her many casual beaus can guess that Ruby knows exactly who the unredeemable characters are. Certainly nobody has any idea that sometimes Ruby dons a wig and secretes about her person some arsenic (or cyanide, strychnine, belladonna, or chloroform—she’s not choosy!) in order to remove some extremely dangerous character from the scene. Enter Guy, 18, a morgue employee who can transform his appearance to look like anyone. All he wants is to learn enough about his special ability to control it, but in order to do that, he might have to solve a string of mysterious poisoning murders across the city. Can the would-be detective, doomed to perpetual disguise, have a romance with a sexy murderess? In a vivacious, corrupt, Prohibition-era Chicago where everyone appears to be White, characters speak in smart-alecky slang, and tropes collide chaotically to diverting effect. At times, the dependence on genre conventions results in stereotyping, for example around weight and social class.

A femme fatale heroine, a crime that mustn’t be solved: noir turned merrily upside down. (Noir paranormal. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4972-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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The Phantom of the Opera served as inspiration, but this wouldn’t last on Broadway.

PHANTOM HEART

Stephanie and her family move into an old mansion rumored to have been put under a curse after a turn-of-the-20th-century rich boy meddled with an Egyptian mummy.

After her young sister complains about strange events, high school student Stephanie befriends Lucas, a geeky, good-looking boy, and meets the other members of SPOoKy, the Scientific Paranormal Organization of Kentucky: Charlotte, Wes, and Patrick. Stephanie learns the history of her new home from Lucas, who attracts her romantic attention, but the usually levelheaded girl is soon drawn to Erik, the handsome phantom who first comes to her in dreams. The story is told in chapters narrated by Stephanie, Lucas, and Zedok, whose identity is initially a source of confusion to Stephanie. Zedok appears wearing different masks, “personified slivers” of his soul, representing states of mind such as Wrath, Madness, and Valor. Meanwhile, until gifted singer Stephanie came along and he could write songs for her, Erik’s dreams were thwarted; he wanted to be a composer but his family expected him to become a doctor. In the gothic horror tradition, Erik’s full background and connection with Zedok are slowly revealed. Romantic dream sequences are lush and swoon-y, but the long, drawn-out battle to end the curse, aided by a celebrity clairvoyant, is tedious, and the constant introduction of Erik’s different personae is confusing. Most characters default to White; Patrick is Black.

The Phantom of the Opera served as inspiration, but this wouldn’t last on Broadway. (Horror. 13-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11604-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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