A top-notch paranormal adventure is supercharged by a far-fetched premise with unexpected verve, emotion, and thrills.

THE BOOK OF INVASIONS

After the discovery of a mysterious map in Greenland, a tormented archaeology assistant and her allies fight a sinister cult trying to recover an ancient Egyptian secret.

A Hollywood screenwriter might pitch this paranormal adventure by Vick (A Phantom Walks Among Us, 2019, etc.) as the “Girl With the Dragon TattooMeets Indiana Jones,” though heroine Limerick “Ricky” Crowe’s has body art that consists not of a dragon but of a Celtic triskelion, an ancient three-lobed mythological symbol. Ricky left her native Ireland with her sister and widowed mother after the death of her father and subsequently endured a traumatic adolescent rape-mutilation while growing up in troglodyte Alabama. Now an alcoholic introvert, Ricky finds solace in online gaming in her Chicago apartment and in archaeological fieldwork with a local institute. Then her sister Sasha disappears in tandem with a massacre, at a climatology outpost in Greenland, by armed raiders who struck the remote site after the discovery of an ancient map, seemingly of Egyptian origin. The doomed Sasha managed to send the map to Ricky and her research teammates, who are promptly targeted by a ruthless global cult. Elements of Irish folklore and the Old Testament fall into place in Ricky’s bewildered and angry but resourceful mind, and soon she and allies are on an international chase to recover an ancient Egyptian secret of life and death. Escapist beach reads such as Clive Cussler’s Sahara and Iris Johansen’s Storm Cycle have jeep-driven down similarly dusty, artifact-strewn paths, but here the supernatural—not just lost wisdom, treasure, or technology—lies at the center of a conspiracy that has bad guys a step ahead of the heroes and cliffhangers that involve literally hanging from cliffs. Vick keeps his heroine credibly flawed during hideous ordeals and drops surprise after surprise until the end. Lucky encounters with occult-hieroglyphics interpreters in back alleys may be a bit much. But a grand spirit of master storytelling hangs over the novel, and readers will be glad to go along for the ride.  

A top-notch paranormal adventure is supercharged by a far-fetched premise with unexpected verve, emotion, and thrills.

Pub Date: April 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-957851-02-0

Page Count: 474

Publisher: Penmore Press LLC

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

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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It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

HIDDEN PICTURES

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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