The Three

threeWhen you’ve swallowed as many horror novels as I have, you grow so familiar with the varied ingredients used that you tend to focus on a given author’s particular craft in cooking and presenting the same old meal, or get excited by the occasional flourish of a new spice (even if the dish hasn’t been fundamentally altered).

It’s that rare day when someone sets a plate in front of you and in a flash of excitement you realize how wholly unfamiliar the experience is. And when that novel is not just novel but staggeringly good, you want the meal to never end, and you want to call all of your fellow diners to bark that they have just got to try this.

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The Amazing Harvey

amazingharveyLos Angeles-based attorney and occasional mystery novelist Don Passman found a way to utilize magic – one of his personal passions – with fiction in the creation of Harvey Kendall, the protagonist of his latest novel.
 
THE AMAZING HARVEY is a lightweight, mostly enjoyable story that suffers slightly from a plodding pace and a resolution so improbable that it takes a bit of – well, magic! – to make it work.

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Bird Box

birdboxThe latest collapse of civilization in Josh Malerman’s crafty debut, BIRD BOX, comes by way of “the Problem,” a tantalizingly non-specific apocalyptic force bedevilling the ever-dwindling remnants of humankind. The novel’s cold open finds Malorie and (her?) two children–Boy and Girl–prepping for an escape from the house they’ve been trapped in for years.

Gruffly counseling the children on what to bring, and how to behave once on the river heading south toward an uncertain refuge, Malorie securely fastens blindfolds over their eyes and they clutch one another as they fumble through the yard. And they listen, acutely aware of every crack and rustle, unsure what may be standing just beyond their reach.

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The Shadow of the Gauntlet

shadowgauntletThere’s a great quote about THE LORD OF THE RINGS that may or may not be true. I’ve seen it attributed to several different people, and the phrasing varies, but it generally goes like this:

J.R.R. Tolkien and a group of colleagues would meet and read passages from their work. Tolkien, from all accounts, was a poor public speaker, prone to mumbling and speaking in a monotone. Once, while Tolkien read from his work-in-progress, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Hugo Dyson (English professor and author) fell asleep. When he awoke, Tolkien was reading from a particularly long, dry passage that introduced new characters into his story. Legend has it that Dryson exclaimed, “Oh, no, not another fucking elf!” The story goes that Tolkien still read his work aloud from time to time, but never again when Dyson was present.

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Japantown

japantownBarry Lancet’s debut thriller is a very impressive work that avoids most of the pitfalls of first-time novelists. This, no doubt, is due to Lancet’s former position as editor for a large international publishing house. So while JAPANTOWN suffers slightly from a drawn-out pace, it is mostly assured, effective, and introduces a protagonist that could easily become the star of a new series.
 
Jim Brodie, a San Francisco-based art and antique dealer whose specialty is works from ancient Japan, receives a phone call one night from a friend at the SFPD. An entire family has been brutally gunned down in the Japantown section of the city. With his many years of knowledge and insight into Japanese culture, Brodie often serves as the police department’s go-to guy when a crime is committed in Japantown. But neither Brodie nor the police investigators have seen anything as shocking as this.

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King of the Weeds

kingweedsThe third of the continued adventures of Mike Hammer that have come courtesy of Titan books. Now unlike the other entries, KING OF THE WEEDS is a continuation of sorts of Back Alley a book that at first closed the chapter on Mike Hammer’s career. Now thats not to say you will be lost not having read that entry. The authors do a fine job of catching up the reader. So yes there are some spoilers. But then that outcome of that book is key to this story.

The story opens with an attempt on Mike’s life. But why now and who is the question. Add into the fact the release of a prisoner named Rudy Olaf that Mike’s good pal put away years ago. But now is to be cleared of all his charges due to some new evidence. That being someone now owning up to the crimes. That of a string of killings all involving gay men.

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RedDevil 4

red4REDDEVIL 4 is proof that while someone may be a renowned, published expert on a particular topic, it doesn’t guarantee that same someone is also a novelist – at least not the first time out. So while this fiction debut from Eric C. Lauthardt benefits from his extensive knowledge of the topic, it also suffers from a clumsy structure and mostly thin-as-paper characters.
 
The story is set in the year 2053; a time when most people carry tiny implants inside their brains that help them organize their activities, access information, and communicate with each other.

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