Sick and twisted and troubling: Reading it is like stumbling on an old horror movie on TV in the middle of the night.

TINY NIGHTMARES

VERY SHORT STORIES OF HORROR

Forty works of flash fiction guaranteed to inspire nightmares.

Michel and Nieto collaborated previously on the story collection Tiny Crimes (2018), and here they apply the same basic guidelines—stripping stories down to about 1,500 words—and transpose them to the horror genre to fantastic effect. These are achingly brief but exquisitely crafted fragments of horror, some real, some imagined, and some incomplete. Divided into four sections—heads, hearts, limbs, and viscera—the book is delightfully unpredictable. In an elegant introduction, the editors observe, “Fear is also, for better or (more often) worse, the dark force that shapes society. Whether it’s politicians spreading hatred to scare up votes or the passive fear that keeps so many of us from risking change in our lives, our communities, and our world.” The opener, Meg Elison's “Guess,” features a protagonist who knows how everyone will die. In “Jane Death Theory #13,” Rion Amilcar Scott tackles the horrifying history of people of color who have died from gunshot wounds while arrested, cuffed, and secured in the back of a police car—annotated with real-life examples. There are a plethora of creepy creatures, such as the inhuman thing in “We’ve Been in Enough Places To Know” by Corey Farrenkopf; the demon that lives in the art exhibition in “The Blue Room” by Lena Valencia; or the puppy that morphs into a human baby in Hilary Leichter's “Doggy-Dog World.” Other horrors are psychological: In "Lone," by Jac Jemc, a woman who fears men makes a horrifying discovery while camping alone while in Kevin Nguyen's “The Unhaunting,” a man desperate to be visited by his dead wife is told by an amateur ghostbuster that she doesn’t want to see him. There are plenty of iconic frights here, among them vampires and werewolves, but it's surprising how very different all of these stories are, especially given their limits. Iván Parra Garcia's "The Resplendence of Disappearing" is translated from the original Spanish by Allana C. Noyes into spare, brittle English that recalls Cormac McCarthy. "Candy Boii" by Sam J. Miller delves into the dangers of social media, with graceful passages like “The real danger is how we open ourselves up. What we let in, when we believe ourselves to be safe." There's quite a lot of body horror, too, so squeamish readers are forewarned, but fans of innovative horror films like Get Out and Us will have a blast.

Sick and twisted and troubling: Reading it is like stumbling on an old horror movie on TV in the middle of the night.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948226-62-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Black Balloon Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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