Dan (Unnatural Acts, 2012, etc.), who’ll clearly do anything for a laugh, seems to be having the time of his afterlife. The...

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HAIR RAISING

A serial scalper threatens to ignite a full-scale war between two bands of werewolves in Dan Chambeaux’s Unnatural Quarter. And there’s much, much more.

Now that Death Warmed Over, the first volume based on his adventures, has been published by the ghostwriter Linda Bullwer, aka Penny Dreadful, Dan ought to be one happy fella, since even posthumous fame is welcome to a zombie detective. But his brow is furrowed—or it would be, if undead brows furrowed—by problems in the Quarter. It’s clear that whoever shaved the pate of Rusty, the werewolf who runs cockatrice fights, has practiced on other werewolves, whether they’re Hairballs like Rusty, who remain always lycanthropes, or the Monthlies they’re feuding with, like troublemakers Scratch and Sniff, who turn wolf only under the full moon. When randy young vampire Ben Willard is murdered and his organs harvested, panic runs through the Quarter. A lesser shamus would forget his commitments to Archibald Victor, who wants Tony Cralo’s Spare Parts Emporium to replace the defective spleen and brain they sold him; to Steve Halsted, Dan’s dirt brother, whose ex-wife Rova, the world’s worst beautician, won’t let him visit his son because he’s a zombie and demands more child support even though he’s undead; and to Esther, the harpy waitress at Ghoul’s Diner who can’t get rid of a bad-luck charm a disgruntled wizard left her as a tip. Not Dan, who not only perseveres with each case, but manages to knit several of them together as neatly as witches Mavis and Alma Wannovich patch Dan’s diverse bullet holes after every round of his investigations.

Dan (Unnatural Acts, 2012, etc.), who’ll clearly do anything for a laugh, seems to be having the time of his afterlife. The result is like an early, funny Woody Allen film with zombies, ghosts, vampires and werewolves.

Pub Date: April 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7582-7738-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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

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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