A gripping horror tale in the pulpy paperback tradition.

THE LEFTOVERS CLUB

A group of adults who survived a murder spree decades ago confronts the possible reemergence of the killer in this horror novel.

In 1986, the small town of Deighton, Pennsylvania, was terrorized by a serial killer named Tom Wickerman, who murdered at least six children before crashing his car into a frozen lake during a winter storm. The survivors—the kids the Deighton Demon did not slay—formed the Leftovers Club as a means to work through their collective trauma. The club still meets 35 years later, and most of the members have long since built stable lives for themselves. Joe White grew up to be a successful novelist and has two kids with fellow Leftover Judy. But things are about to change. It begins when Joe notices an older man hanging around outside his house. When the man makes vague threats regarding the writer’s young son, Simon, Joe can’t help but wonder if it’s Wickerman. It’s impossible, of course—Wickerman would be over 100 years old even if he hadn’t died in the lake—but maybe he had a brother or some other relative? At the next Leftovers meeting, Joe learns that he isn’t the only one who thinks he’s seen the killer around town. Oddities continue to pile up, but when one of their own turns up murdered in her house, the Leftovers know that the Deighton Demon isn’t done with them. From the very beginning, Wennerstroem’s prose clicks like an ascending roller coaster, building tension with every scene: “Judy shook her head; she hadn’t seen her, nor did she want to, at least not yet. The room down the hall overflowed with feverish commotion, voices distorted by fear and horror, then the house fell quiet, dead quiet.” The book has strong notes of Stephen King—the premise is more than a bit reminiscent of It—but as the tale unfolds, Wennerstroem’s sensibility comes into its own. The characters mostly hew to established types—including the cops working on the investigation, a street-wise Baltimore transfer and a veteran of the 1986 case—but the author draws them well. For fans of terror and suspense, Wennerstroem’s unnerving story does the trick.

A gripping horror tale in the pulpy paperback tradition.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-648-97980-7

Page Count: 366

Publisher: FarSight Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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