The Apartment

No, not a novelization of the 1960 Jack Lemmon/Shirley MacLaine comedy, THE APARTMENT is a slow-burn horror/suspense story that, if it were indeed a film, would be more suited to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock rather than Billy Wilder.

Mark and Steph are a mismatched married couple living in Cape Town with their toddler daughter. One night, the family is subjected to a home invasion. Although they are left physically unharmed, the psychological stress wears on the couple. They decide to get away for a week with the hope that it will alleviate much of the dark cloud that has surrounded their lives since the break-in. Steph contacts a website that assists would-be vacationers in “residence swapping,” a way for folks to stay somewhere exotic without paying hefty hotel rates. Soon after, Steph receives an email from a couple in Paris that would like to swap residences for a week. Jackpot, right? Well, no…

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Six Scary Stories

6scarystoriesPulling the next submission off my precariously balanced tower of books-to-review, and —

Hey, what’s this? SIX SCARY STORIES by Stephen King.

Huh. I didn’t know King had a new collection of short stories out. And this is a slim volume (only six stories, after all), so I can probably knock it out in an hour or so. Wonder why my friends (huge King fans) haven’t been talking it up …

… um …

I see.

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The Fireman

firemanJoe Hill’s latest novel, THE FIREMAN, effectively presents this popular young horror author at his creative best, as well his self-indulgent worst. And it’s the striking creativity of the story that makes you wish the end result were so much better.

Can a person really die from spontaneous combustion? No, unless they are stricken with Draco Incendia Tyrchophyton – the disease central to the novel (more commonly known as “Dragonscale”) that marks its victim with beautiful black and gold bruises before it causes them to burst into flames. No one is sure how it began, but it has turned into a plague spreading across the country and hitting cities one by one.

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Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

warlockholmesAmerican author Gabriel Denning signs his name “G. S. Denning” to assume a more British persona in WARLOCK HOLMES: A STUDY IN BRIMSTONE, his comedy/horror version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal detective. The concept is limited. So, not surprisingly, most of the humor in this debut work is forced and overplayed. Holmes purists, beware.
Like the Conan Doyle originals, Denning’s book is a series of short stories. In the title story Dr. John Watson meets and soon shares lodgings at Baker Street with Warlock Holmes. It isn’t long before Watson discovers his new friend’s unique ability. Holmes has an impressive – although often irritating – knowledge of demons. In fact, as Watson eventually learns, Holmes is possessed by the spirit of Professor James Moriarty, a master demonic criminal.

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Kill Switch

killswitchAfter seven novels, Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger of the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) has faced some of the most fantastic and formidable threats ever created by Maberry’s fertile imagination. If KILL SWITCH, the eighth and latest series entry, suffers from anything it is, ironically, an embarrassment of riches as Maberry attempts to once again outdo himself.

While on a mission in the Antarctic, Ledger and two members of his Echo Team discover an odd looking machine. When activated the machine nulls all electronic devices and software. But exposure to the activated machine has other strange effects that Ledger and his team only later understand.

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The Passenger

passenger1941: A German U-boat is dispatched to the coast of Iceland to pick up and transport two prisoners. One is a British submarine commander, and the other is a Norwegian university professor. The commander of the U-boat, Siegfried Lorenz, is told very little about the prisoners and given only the most basic of instructions. Unfortunately, through a series of tragic events, and through no fault of the commander’s, the prisoners don’t make it to their destination alive. Then things start to get a little weird …

The crew hears voices. They see apparitions. The U-boat suffers mechanical problems. People disappear, are injured, or die mysteriously.

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The Dragon Factory

dragonfactOne of the many pleasures of 2009’s PATIENT ZERO, Jonathan Maberry’s outstanding novel that introduced the character of Joe Ledger, was how the author took an outrageous premise and made it completely credible. In THE DRAGON FACTORY, his 2010 follow-up now available in a new mass-market edition, Maberry amps up the outrageousness factor by several degrees. But again, thanks to his energetic prose and narrative drive, he has us believing it.

Ledger has been approached by ominous government security goons before, but this time, he senses that something is seriously wrong. Rather than comply with their demand to come with them, he distracts them with a few well-placed punches and flees. While on the run, Ledger learns that the U.S. executive branch, currently run by the vice president while the president recovers from surgery, is out to dismantle the Department of Military Science, the fiercely patriotic, but under-the-radar agency for which Ledger works.

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White Knuckle

whiteknuckleWhen he’s not busy writing and directing movies for various major and independent production companies, Eric Red writes horror short stories and novels. His previous three horror novels often incorporated elements from other fiction genres — like science fiction or westerns.

WHITE KNUCKLE, his fourth and latest novel, is also a horror story, but differentiates itself for its complete lack of anything supernatural or extraterrestrial. This doesn’t make it any less horrifying. In fact, WHITE KNUCKLE is all the more shocking and frightening for its realism.

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positiveWhy, you might wonder, would horror author David Wellington write another novel about zombies? After all, he dealt with zombies in his MONSTER ISLAND trilogy in the mid 2000s — long before they became the most popular subject of horror fiction. Then he reminded us how fascinating – and truly frightening – vampires are in his Laura Claxton series (starting with 13 BULLETS), and even resurrected the long-neglected subject of werewolves in a few novels after that (FROSTBITE and OVERWINTER).

So why zombies again? Probably because it occurred to Wellington how few novels are told from the perspective of someone who has no memory of life before the “Zombie Apocalypse.” That’s what sets POSITIVE, his latest, apart from the shelf full of zombie novels.

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Predator One

predatoroneWhat differentiates PREDATOR ONE, the seventh in Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, from the earlier titles are is weapons used by the villains. Instead of bio-engineered mutants or contagious pathogens, the villains here wreak havoc using mostly mechanical drones.
But just because these weapons need a little less imagination to envision doesn’t make this latest title any less frightening. In truth, PREDATOR ONE is the most terrifying and intense novel of the series to date.

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