Review: Gallows Hill by Darcy Coates

cover of Gallows HillGallows Hill by Darcy Coates
Poisoned Pen Press (September 2022) 
384 pages; $12.99 paperback; $4.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Deep in the hills of a small town, a cloud of birds explode into the sky. Their screeches disturbed as though their shelter surged jolts of pain into them.

It’s haunted. Well, some thought so. Others say Gallows Hill was cursed, laced with a poisonous vestige of murder and betrayal.Continue Reading

Review: Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy

cover of Mary: An Awakening in TerrorMary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy 
Tor Nightfire (July 2022) 
416 pages; $19.79 paperback; $12.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Nat Cassidy’s Mary: An Awakening of Terror opens with one of the most genuine author’s notes I’ve ever read. Cassidy details a close relationship with his mother, who, like many of us, was a Stephen King fan. Upon seeing the film poster of De Palma’s 1976 film adaptation of Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek, Cassidy was “messed up bad.” Continue Reading

Review: Suburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer

cover of Suburban HellSuburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer
G.P. Putnam Sons (August 2022) 
336 pages; $15.30; $11.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

What’s a little demonic exorcism among friends?

Things are pretty good in a small Chicago suburb. The kids play together, parents help one another watch the kids, and the neighbors constantly hold potlucks and holiday cookouts.

Four friends, Amy, Liz, Jess, and Melissa, hold wine nights to break away from the pretentious PTA crowd and their long stories of kitchen renovations. Liz, the softie of the group, and the most “together” hostess, suggests the crew build a “She Shed.” Ever the go-getter, Liz begins construction immediately, and the women “christen” the site with pinot and chardonnay, unknowingly disturbing a restless entity.

And then the nightmare ensues. Continue Reading

Review: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher 

cover of What Moves the DeadWhat Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher 
Tor Nightfire (July 2022)
176 pages; $17.99 hardcover; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

The dead don’t walk.

There is a place secluded by an untenable smog, a 30-foot drop lake, and shrouded with acrimonious fungi. Some say it is the place the devils dance on moors. Others say at this ancestral residence, The House of Usher, they can hear the worms in the earth, craving flesh. Continue Reading

Review: Cults: Inside the World’s Most Notorious Groups and Understanding the People Who Joined Them by Max Cutler with Kevin Conley

cover of CultsCults: Inside the World’s Most Notorious Groups and Understanding the People Who Joined Them by Max Cutler with Kevin Conley
Simon & Schuster (July 2022)
416 pages; $22.63 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

We’ve seen it for generations: a well-spoken, charismatic person derails the ingrained ideals of humanity. Take the most horrific war leaders of World War II, like Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini. Both men, with bloodied hands and a lack of empathy to such outlandish extents that many have argued exemplified psychopathy, not only led their armies down a wretched road of antisemitism, barbarity, and murder but did so with their recruits’ eagerness and even enthusiasm.

The same question is often asked throughout history, whether regarding dictators, crime bosses, or cult leaders: Why do people go along with this?Continue Reading

Review: They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe

cover of They Drown Our DaughtersThey Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe
Poisoned Pen Press (July 2022)
384 pages; $15.29 paperback; $6.49 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

In a perfect world, mothers are kind, gentle beings who protect their children at all costs. The catch, however, is that a mother must be selfless and nurturing in every role — an inevitability doomed expectation.

In Katrina Monroe’s They Drown Our Daughters, the prologue in the 1800s sets the stage for a mother’s fierce fortitude in the wake of familial turmoil. But, things turn for the worse, and an unexpected, somewhat accidental tragedy unleashes the curse that haunts five generations of women. Continue Reading

Review: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

cover of The House Across the LakeThe House Across the Lake by Riley Sager
Dutton Books (June 2022)
386 pages; $17.47 hardcover; $24.95 paperback; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Drowning.

Murder.

Poison.

If it weren’t for all the wicked haunted house scenes and terrifying entities in Home Before Dark, I’d say Riley Sager’s latest release, The House Across The Lake, is my new favorite of his. Continue Reading

Review: The I-5 Killer by Ann Rule

cover of The I-5 KillerThe I-5 Killer by Ann Rule
Berkley Books (January 2022) 
295 pages; paperback $10.99; e-book $8.99;
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

He had it all: eye-catching good looks, an impressive educational transcript, and a reputation as a star athlete. But, like most criminals, that wasn’t enough for NFL draftee Randall (Randy) Woodfield, aka “The I-5 Killer.”

On a spring night in Portland, Oregon, Woodfield stalked the dark streets, hungry for an unsuspecting woman. Woodfield could already visualize her shock. He even thought that the woman might be honored by his attack because of his athletic build and strong jawline — what he knew to be “handsome features.”

He grabbed the woman and held a knife to her throat. Woodfield felt her pulse beneath the blade. His body surged with what was, to him, the pleasure of all pleasures, a helpless woman in his grasp. Continue Reading

Review: Garden of Earthly Bodies by Sally Oliver

cover of Garden of Earthly BodiesGarden of Earthly Bodies by Sally Oliver 
Harry N. Abrams (June 2022) 
320 pages; $26.00 hardcover; $9.99 ebook 
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Sally Oliver’s Garden of Earthly Bodies is a visceral vortex of blood and trauma.

In a uniquely elegant literary style, Oliver’s novel follows Marianne, whose life has become tense and overgrown with the weeds of trauma and enmeshment. Marianne’s younger sister, Marie, falls deathly ill and experiences heavy mood dips, frequent exhaustion, and severe depression — the three settling in as her reformed default personality. Continue Reading

Review: The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy by Ann Rule

cover of The Stranger Beside MeThe Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy by Ann Rule
W.W. Norton & Company (May 2022) 
640 pages; $17.95 paperback 
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

The most unnerving true crime book is unearthed and shocked back to life in W.W. Norton & Company’s newest edition of The Stranger Beside Me by Anne Rule.

Rule is the undefeated champion of true crime writing, but this particular book will always be her most memorable. Unlike Rule’s other books, such as The I-5 Killer and Lust Killer, which focus heavily on the perpetrator, The Stranger Beside Me feels part investigative journalism, part memoir. Continue Reading

Review: From Below by Darcy Coates

cover of From Below by Darcy CoatesFrom Below by Darcy Coates 
Poisoned Pen Press (June 7, 2022)
352 pages; $14.39 paperback, $4.99 ebook 
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

No light. No air. No escape.

Darcy Coates’ From Below is hopelessly suffocating in the darkest, most devouring sense. And, god, is it brutally brilliant. Continue Reading

Review: Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

cover of Just Like MotherJust Like Mother by Anne Heltzel
Tor Nightfire (May 17, 2022) 
320 pages; hardcover $26.99, e-book $13.99
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

The Stepford Wives meets Rosemary’s Baby in Anne Heltzel’s adult debut Just Like Mother. 

On a GoodReads list, “Get Creeped Out With These 33 New and Upcoming Horror Novels,” I discovered Just Like Mother.

Heltzel’s novel became a haunting, inescapable image in my brain, with a wonderfully lurid cover featuring…. a baby doll. Continue Reading

Review: The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

cover of The HaciendaThe Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
Berkley (May 2022)
352 pages; $20.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Lost to the wilds of war, death, and deceit, The Hacienda ensnares readers in its malevolent maw.

In Isabel Cañas’ debut novel, dread and unease snake up the spine of both the reader and characters in a tone as haunting as the mothers of gothic stories like Elizabeth Gaskell and Daphne du Maurier. Continue Reading

Review: Lust Killer by Ann Rule

cover of Lust Killer by Ann RuleLust Killer by Ann Rule 
Berkley (May 2022)
288 pages; paperback $12.00; e-book $6.99
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

“In the face of cruel madness, calm, sane steps must be taken.” – Ann Rule

Ann Rule once again proves she is the exemplar of true crime books. After reading Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, one of her most famous and intimately written true crime tales, I knew I had to read more of her work.Continue Reading

Review: Horror Hotel by Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren

cover of Horror HotelHorror Hotel by Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren
Underlined (February, 2022)
224 pages; $8.49 paperback, $9.99 kindle
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Sometimes they want to hurt you. Sometimes they want you to help them stop hurting.

Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren are an award-winning coauthor duo specializing in edgy rom-coms and horror stories laced with romance, friendship, and movie references.

With this formula, mixed with ghosts, psychics, and inspiration from the infamous Cecil Hotel, the pair breed a spine-tingling tale for young adults in this suspenseful horror debut. Continue Reading