A grand, nightmarish page-turner that will have you riveted no matter how much you’d prefer to look away.

THE DEVIL'S DETECTIVE

Even hell has crime. And somebody has to go through…well, you know…to bring criminals to justice.

Keeping up with changing times, hell is no longer a smoldering, glowing array of cauldrons, ovens and other barbecue pits that smell like brimstone. Think, instead, of the worst city you’ve visited in your life and imagine it being even ickier; where nothing smells or tastes good, public transportation is literally the pits, and there are pesky little demons waiting at every dimly illuminated corner to snap at you and bite your skin. This being hell, there is also a bureaucracy with rules. And when the rules are violated by theft and even murder, hell has at its disposal condemned little people such as Thomas Fool, one of the nether region’s “Information Men” assigned to look into egregious brutalities that not even hell’s masters (wherever they are) will tolerate. And when bodies of young people start turning up in such horrifically deformed shapes that their very souls are sucked clean, Fool is compelled both from within and without this underworld to investigate this bewildering serial murder case—which may auger yet another transfiguration of this Very Bad Place. With wit, ingenuity and prodigious timing, first-time British novelist Unsworth imagines an unsettling afterlife that at times feels uncomfortably close to some of the more unbearable regions of our waking dreams. The whodunit aspects of this novel may, in the end, be less interesting than the phantasmagorical details surrounding it. But that’s far less a complaint than a compliment of the author’s visionary gifts.

A grand, nightmarish page-turner that will have you riveted no matter how much you’d prefer to look away.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53934-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Certainly not for all readers, but anyone interested in seeing William Peter Blatty’s infamous The Exorcist (1971) by way of...

MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM

The wonder of friendship proves to be stronger than the power of Christ when an ancient demon possesses a teenage girl.

Hendrix was outrageously inventive with his debut novel (Horrorstör, 2014) and continues his winning streak with a nostalgic (if blood-soaked) horror story to warm the hearts of Gen Xers. “The exorcist is dead,” Hendrix writes in the very first line of the novel, as a middle-aged divorcée named Abby Rivers reflects back on the friendship that defined her life. In flashbacks, Abby meets her best friend, Gretchen Lang, at her 10th birthday party in 1982, forever cementing their comradeship. The bulk of the novel is set in 1988, and it’s an unabashed love letter to big hair, heavy metal, and all the pop-culture trappings of the era, complete with chapter titles ripped from songs all the way from “Don’t You Forget About Me” to “And She Was.” Things go sideways when Abby, Gretchen, and two friends venture off to a cabin in the woods (as happens) to experiment with LSD. After Gretchen disappears for a night, she returns a changed girl. Hendrix walks a precipitously fine line in his portrayal, leaving the story open to doubt whether Gretchen is really possessed or has simply fallen prey to the vanities and duplicities that high school sometimes inspires. He also ferociously captures the frustrations of adolescence as Abby seeks adult help in her plight and is relentlessly dismissed by her elders. She finally finds a hero in Brother Lemon, a member of a Christian boy band, the Lemon Brothers Faith and Fitness Show, who agrees to help her. When Abby’s demon finally shows its true colors in the book’s denouement, it’s not only a spectacularly grotesque and profane depiction of exorcism, but counterintuitively a truly inspiring portrayal of the resilience of friendship.

Certainly not for all readers, but anyone interested in seeing William Peter Blatty’s infamous The Exorcist (1971) by way of Heathers shouldn’t miss it.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59474-862-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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