A horror tale by a gifted storyteller that, despite minor flaws, delivers a wickedly good ending.

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A DEMON'S ULTIMATUM

A Texas woman considers accepting a demon’s proposal of marriage in order to save her family in Bastaros’ (Life Near the Sea, 2011) supernatural thriller.

Stacy Buchanan doesn’t know what to make of her disturbing dreams, in which she’s in a dark tunnel, unable to reach a crying baby. Her husband, Todd, attributes them to her natural concern for their 3-year-old daughter, Angel, but Stacy instead thinks that their house may be haunted. This belief is magnified when she starts seeing images of a menacing, demonic figure in windows and mirrors. The demon turns out to be Ayda, chief demon “from underground,” and she has an agenda: Her son, Anoushek, is so attracted to Stacy that he wishes to marry her. Stacy realizes that she doesn’t have much of a choice, particularly when Anoushek threatens to destroy her family if she rejects him. She has 10 days to decide whether to become a demon wife or to watch her husband and child die. This short novel’s mingling of demons and a married woman has shades of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967), but Bastaros adds fresh elements to the mix. For example, Stacy sees Ayda as unquestionably horrific in appearance, but she finds the pale-skinned Anoushek, a demon/human hybrid, rather handsome. Her impossible decision gives the story a component of drama, as well as suspense, although the author disappointingly skips over much of the 10-day countdown. The story is further enhanced by its general sense of uneasiness, courtesy of a creepy neighbor, Mrs. Heffernan, who freely admits to seeing ghosts. Later, Stacy experiences her dream in real life; this time, it includes another mother, whose veil can’t quite hide her “bulging red eyes.” The book does have some structural and grammatical issues: Ashour, Anoushek’s father, makes an early, sudden appearance but isn’t properly introduced until later; and Ayda, at several points, confusingly appears to be male. There are also other errors, such as when the story introduces Stacy’s mother, Lauren Silverman, as “Lauren Sullivan.” Overall, however, the author’s enthusiasm shines through, leaving readers with lasting images, such as two demons sitting on a sofa, waiting to interrupt Stacy’s psychiatrist appointment.

A horror tale by a gifted storyteller that, despite minor flaws, delivers a wickedly good ending.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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