Review: 'Disappearance at Devil's Rock' by Paul Tremblay

DevilRockDisappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay
William Morrow (June 21, 2016)
336 pages; $17.76 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Quiet horror is the hardest kind to get right; but when it is done right, it’s a showcase of the best the genre has to offer. Stripped of gimmicks and gore, quiet horror takes people you’ve come to care about and makes you watch as something terrible slowly creeps in from the edges.

The “something terrible” happens early in Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, Paul Tremblay’s highly anticipated follow-up to his 2015 breakout, A Head Full of Ghosts. Elizabeth, a single mom raising two kids, gets the phone call every parent dreads when her son, Tommy, goes missing while fooling around with his friends in some nearby woods. But it’s the mystery surrounding Tommy’s disappearance—lost? abducted? running away? sacrificed?—that is the true “something terrible” here, as Tremblay lays out a number of possibilities, each more troubling than the last.Continue Reading

Review: 'The Conveyance' by Brian W. Matthews

ConveyanceThe Conveyance by Brian W. Matthews
JournalStone (June 17, 2016)
260 pages; $16.39 paperback; $4.95 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington

The first third of The Conveyance was about ordinary people leading mostly ordinary lives. Before you know it, Brian W. Mathews lulls the reader into a comfort zone brought on by his easy-going writing style.

Mathews has a gift for developing strong characters who interact with one another in the most genuine of ways. Therapist/patient, husband/wife, best friends. Every one of those relationships was one-hundred-percent believable. It’s a good thing, because a lot of what happens in The Conveyance requires readers to check their disbelief at the door.Continue Reading

Review: 'Tales from the Lake Vol. 2' edited by Emma Audsley, R.J. Cavender and Joe Mynhardt

taleslake2Tales from the Lake Vol. 2 edited by Emma Audsley, R.J. Cavender and Joe Mynhardt
Crystal Lake Publishing (March 2016)
382 pages; $16.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by John Brhel

For many, a trip to the lake means relaxation, fresh air, the splendor of nature, barbecues, fishing with grandpa—a break from the worries and stress of everyday life. Tales from The Lake Vol. 2 offers no such escape or reverie. This anthology of dark fiction from Crystal Lake Publishing plumbs the depths, sure—those of human despair, debauchery and dread. Like a trip to the lake, however, this collection is fun, in its own twisted way.

Coming two years after the publication of Tales from The Lake Vol. 1, volume two in what Crystal Lake has said will be an annual anthology offers over a dozen tales, each exploring a different idea: infidelity, revenge, suicide, paranoia, mass violence, *cough* evil dolls.Continue Reading

Review: 'Black Static' #52

blackstatic52Black Static #52
TTA Press (May 2016)
164 pages; $5.99 print; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by David Simms

Black Static is more than a British magazine of horror and dark fantasy. It IS the best magazine of dark fiction that is produced on a regular basis. While many have compared it to Cemetery Dance, including this reviewer, it transcends anything currently in production. Bimonthly, readers are treated to stories that are not of the norm in the genre and often evoke a cross between the Borderlands anthologies and Dangerous Visions. Yes, it’s that solid—and consistent.Continue Reading

Review: 'Freedom of the Mask' by Robert McCammon

freedom_of_the_mask_designFreedom of the Mask by Robert McCammon
Subterranean Press (May 2016)
528 pages; $24.26 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

The Matthew Corbett books have historically been hefty affairs—Speaks the Nightbird, the first in the series, clocked in at over 800 pages, and the others have gone 400 or more. The lone exception was the fifth book, 2014’s River of Souls, which was a lean 256 pages. It’s my personal favorite of the series, the perfect mix of Robert McCammon’s incredibly detailed world building and action/thriller pacing.

Freedom of the Mask has put some of the weight back on—my advance copy hit 530 pages—but maintains the breathless pace of its predecessor. There’s enough story packed in it for two books, but it’s filler-free, and for good reason: there’s a ticking clock hanging over McCammon’s head now. He’s announced that the series will go nine books and no further, which puts us deep in the overall Corbett story arc at this point. McCammon is very calculated in the way he handles each book’s immediate plot while moving all the pieces toward the series conclusion. Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #191 — Review: 'End of Watch'

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End of Watch by Stephen King
Scribner (June 7, 2016)
448 pages; $18.00 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Bev Vincent

End_of_Watch_coverShortly after the publication of Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King announced that the book was the first in a trilogy that would be connected by the City Center Massacre (in which a psycho named Brady Hartsfield stole a Mercedes and plowed into a crowd of people who were waiting in line at a job fair in a struggling Mid-western city).

Hartsfield got away with that crime but was—during the commission of an even more audacious and nefarious scheme—eventually brought to justice by a rag-tag group led by retired police detective Bill Hodges. Hartsfield was effectively taken off the playing board at the conclusion of Mr. Mercedes but, at the end of the second book, Finders Keepers, King hinted strongly that this villain would be back, front and center, for the finale. He also suggested that the third book would be closer to a traditional King novel, by which I mean it might have supernatural elements.

The phrase “End of Watch” will be familiar to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of police dramas. In one context, it refers to the day when a cop retires. On another, more ominous level, it refers to a cop killed in the line of duty. Bill Hodges has already experienced the first usage—the question the title of the third book poses is whether he will experience the other.Continue Reading

Review: 'The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel' edited by Nathan Hystad and Samanda R. Primeau

lakemanorThe Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel edited by Nathan Hystad and Samanda R. Primeau
WoodBridge Press (April 2016)
202 pages; $13.99 paperback; $0.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black

It’s been over a hundred and fifty years since a plague ravaged the area around Lake Manor. With few left to bury them, the corpses were unceremoniously dumped into the lake by their surviving loved ones.

Years later, Lake Manor Hotel is alive with the shadows of the dead. Within the hotel’s 13 rooms, there are 13 tales to tell. Guests will face evil demons, ghosts, creatures from the lake, and the worst monsters of all: the ones within themselves.

13 will check in, but how many will check out?

Continue Reading

Review: 'Babylon Terminal' by Greg F. Gifune

babylon_terminalBabylon Terminal by Greg F. Gifune
Darkfuse (June 2016)
$99.00 hardcover; $16.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington

I can’t say I always connect with a Greg F. Gifune story, but I always try to read his work. He challenges me as a reader and Babylon Terminal did just that. This is not a casual read, it’s not light material.  I feel I had to work for every bit of enjoyment I got out of this book, but it was worth it.

There is some stunning wordcraft in this story. At times Gifune’s prose is close to breathtaking. There is powerful, rich dialogue, as well.Continue Reading

Review: 'Borderlands 6' edited by Olivia F. Monteleone and Thomas F. Monteleone

borderlands6Borderlands 6 edited by Olivia F. Monteleone and Thomas F. Monteleone
Borderlands Press (June 2016)
258 pages; $50.00 limited edition hardcover; $15.99 paperback; $5.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black

It’s been 26 years since Tom Monteleone brought us the inaugural volume of Borderlands. That volume and subsequent ones have been filled with stories that veer off the beaten path of genre tropes, journeying instead into the uncanny, the inexplicable, the unexpected. There’s a twelve year gap between this sixth volume and the fifth, but in this case the adage proves true: Good things come to those who wait.Continue Reading

Review: 'The Moving Soul' by Joshua Criss

movingsoulThe Moving Soul by Joshua Criss
Self-Published (October 2015)
262 pages; $9.95 paperback; $1.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black

“Three hundred and thirty-five years ago, a settler in the Virginia colonies completed a sacrificial spell and buried a legendary occult book for the next one destined to find it. Now, that person has…”

The Moving Soul is a supernatural thriller that focuses on three main characters, all students at Jamestown University in Virginia. Louis is a meek, socially awkward kind of guy, Carolyn is the girl he longs for and eventually ends up in a relationship with, and Darin is his new roommate. Darin also happens to be a real piece of work, a sociopath who’s seeking everything he needs to complete a spell that will grant him immortality. When he makes a certain sacrifice and reaches that goal, he intends to taunt, torture, and kill for eternity.Continue Reading

Review: 'The Everything Box' by Richard Kadrey

Box-1The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager (April 2016)
368 pages; $17.14 hardcover; $15.29 paperback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington

“Earth. Four thousand years ago. Give or take.” When this is the opening line in your new novel, it better be epic. The verdict? Richard Kadrey delivers again.

It’s just after the great flood and the angel Qaphsiel is sent by God to finish off mankind, but he misplaces the Instrument of Destruction. Fast-forward to the present day where a number of individuals and groups are closing in on The Everything Box. Of course the usual Kadrey wit abounds. It’s a story filled with magic, where literally anything is possible.Continue Reading

Review: 'Mongrels' by Stephen Graham Jones

Mongrels_cover-678x1024Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
William Morrow (May 2016)
320 pages; $19.39 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

The werewolves of Mongrels roam the South like a pack of feral dogs, surviving on the very instincts and abilities that often work directly against them. They live in ratty trailers, work an endless parade of menial jobs, subsist on road kill and strawberry wine coolers. They sneak into town under assumed names and sneak out under the cover of night when things go bad. And they always go bad.Continue Reading

Featured review: 'The Fireman' by Joe Hill

the-firemanThe Fireman by Joe Hill
William Morrow (May 17, 2016)
768 pages; $18.82 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Bev Vincent

The Fireman, Joe Hill’s fourth novel, is an apocalyptic tale in which a deadly disease destroys the world. If this conjures thoughts of The Stand, it’s not a coincidence. Hill is on record as saying that the book is his version of The Stand “soaked in gasoline and set on fire.” In his dedication he says he stole “everything else” about the book from his father other than the title.

The illness that spreads like wildfire is Draco incendia trychophyton, a spore rather than a virus. People exposed to it do not burn with a fever—they simply burn. First, lesions develop. Some are almost decorative, resembling scales, hence the illness’s nickname: Dragonscale. Victims are mostly asymptomatic until they suddenly catch fire, usually when under stress. It’s a devastating and terrifying disease, because the conflagration takes out others in the vicinity. Buildings burn, then city blocks, and cities, and more.Continue Reading

Review: 'Kill Switch' by Jonathan Maberry

Kill Switch-2Kill Switch by Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin’s Griffin (April 26 2016)
544 pages; $9.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington

Is it to early to add this to the list of my ten favorite reads of 2016? Kill Switch, by Jonathan Maberry, is that good. It’s hard to imagine many books to be published the rest of this year being better than this new adventure in the Joe Ledger series.Continue Reading

Review: 'Suicide Stitch' by Sarah L. Johnson

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00040]Suicide Stitch by Sarah L. Johnson
EMP Publishing (March 2016)
188 pages; $12.00 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black

Suicide Stitch is the debut collection of Sarah L. Johnson, a writer whose work runs the gamut from horror to literary to science fiction to erotica. The stories here reflect that range of style and voice. They’re billed as “sexy, transgressive, and intelligent, comprised of eleven tales that explore the sinister side of love,” and that’s an apt description for the highlights of the bunch.Continue Reading