A surprising and insightful horror tale.


A woman attempts to reclaim a haunted Malaysian house in this debut novella.

Grandmother Jah has returned to her former residence in a small village at the edge of Kuala Lumpur. It is the house she shared with her husband, Ghani, before she left him for taking a second, younger wife. She has returned only now that Ghani and the second wife are dead and the building stands empty. Jah is sure she can feel their continued presence—footsteps, breathing, even the sensation of being grabbed—but she merely curses them and demands that they leave the house to her. With the help of her granddaughter Khatijah and the girl’s boyfriend, Loong, Jah brings in a Buddhist nun and a Malay shaman to purify the house, but the spirits persist. Jah’s family wants her to forget the house and move on, but she insists on salvaging what she believes to be hers. As the story is told and retold from the perspectives of several characters—including Khatijah; her mother, Fatimah; her uncle Rahim; and Ghani himself—the haunting slowly comes into focus, along with the causes of Jah’s obstinacy. Can a broken home ever be cleared of its ghosts, or will the events of the past continue to haunt a place long after the participants have gone? Muffaz writes claustrophobic prose that draws attention to the story’s creepy details, as here where Rahim observes the trees outside the house that Jah has ordered him to chop down: “Rahim looked up at his father’s mango trees, each approaching twenty years old. The tallest trees soared above the house, with the smallest among them double his height and triple his girth. Fire ants blanketed the overripe fruit, so the mangoes appeared to bleed without spilling a drop.” The shifts in time and perspective add to the story’s unease, which is less interested in spooking readers than analyzing the deeper fault lines of the family’s drama. The author explains in her (mostly unnecessary) introduction that her goal was to explore the grief caused by Malaysia’s tolerance of polygamy, and the result is a captivating tale that should please fans of American gothic while introducing rich new elements.

A surprising and insightful horror tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952283-16-1

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Vernacular Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.


Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.


An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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