Category: Psychological horror
Be careful who you slight
Slights by Kaaron Warren
After an accident in which her mother dies, Stevie has a near-death experience, and finds herself in a room full of people - everyone she's ever annoyed. They clutch at her, scratch and tear at her. But she finds herself drawn back to this place, again and again, determined to unlock its secrets. Which means she has to die, again and again. And Stevie starts to wonder whether other people see the same room...when they die (Product Description)
First of all, can I just say how much I love this cover? A bunch of new paperbacks arrived at the library a few months ago, and this immediately caught my eye for its supreme creepiness. For some reason it reminded me of that movie Jacob's Ladder, but I digress.
This is an exceptionally well-written book, with an original premise that's solidly executed, but reader beware: it is a dark, depressing, claustrophobic read that never lets up. It is a richly textured novel, quite literary, but also ruthless in its barbarity. This book will shock you and make you squirm, of that I am certain. It is a mystery wrapped up in devastating family secrets.
Stevie is a villain like no other I've read in a very long time. Getting inside her head is akin to cracking open a log on the forest floor and having all sorts of creepy crawlies come pouring out -- beetles, centipedes, maggots, you name it. The ick factor is off the charts. I wanted to feel sorry for her, find some reason for empathy, but she is just so completely rotten to her core that you can't. I'm telling you, you can't! Just when I felt myself starting to soften, my burgeoning empathy was squashed by a cruel or selfish word, thought or deed.
And it's not just Stevie: no one is likable in this book. There is no one to root for and I struggle with that kind of post-modern existential reading experience. I need a hero, or at least an anti-hero, someone with one redeeming quality to hang my hat on. But everyone is horrible. Maybe it's because they're seen through Stevie's eyes, but it doesn't matter because the end result is the same.
The first half of the novel reads like a coming-of-age story with lots of jagged edges. It's a slow build, but Stevie's reminisces are painful, ugly and uncomfortable to read because Warren's language is graphic, brutalizing, and scalpel sharp. Certainly not for everyone, but an intriguing and impressive debut.
Judge a book by its cover (November 2010)
Slights (2009) New!
by Kaaron Warren
"Sickening ... Gruesome... Outstanding." Publisher's Weekly Starred Review
I was browsing through some new paperbacks last week and my eyes were immediately drawn to this cover for Slights by Kaaron Warren ... creepy, wouldn't you agree? Then there's what the book is about:
STEVIE IS A KILLER.
But she brings her victims back to life to demand of them: "WHAT DO YOU SEE?"
Now she's about to find out for herself...
Cue appropriately ominous organ music ...
So now it's become a must-read. Review to follow!
The King of Horror gets back to the basics
Full Dark, No Stars
by Stephen King
The master of the macabre returns with four spine-tingling novellas, meant to thrill and chill!!
Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: When a master of horror and heebie-jeebies like Stephen King calls his book Full Dark, No Stars, you know you’re in for a treat--that is, if your idea of a good time is spent curled up in a ball wondering why-oh-why you started reading after dark. King fans (and those who have always wanted to give him a shot) will devour this collection of campfire tales where marriages sway under the weight of pitch-black secrets, greed and guilt poison and fester, and the only thing you can count on is that "there are always worse things waiting." Full Dark, No Stars features four one-sitting yarns showcasing King at his gritty, gruesome, giddy best, so be sure to check under the bed before getting started. --Daphne Durham
1922: "I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger . . ." writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up "1922," the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife, Arlette, proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness.
Big Driver: In "Big Driver," a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face-to-face with another stranger: the one inside herself.
Fair Extension: "Fair Extension," the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Dave Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.
A Good Marriage: When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.
Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.
Some Victorian-Inspired Horror Novels...
For those of you who like their horror stories set in the past, you might want to check out these two books:
Drood by Dan Simmons
Summary: On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens--at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world--hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever. Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?
Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes edited by Charles Prepolec
Summary: Between the shadowy realms of fear and the unforgiving glare of science lies a battleground of unspeakable horror...Faced with his worst fears, Sherlock Holmes has his faith in the science of observation and deduction shaken to the core in 13 all-new tales of terror from today's modern masters of the macabre!
A new "twist" on possession
Summary: After witnessing the horrific murder of her twin sister Lilin, Agnes Hahn developed a multiple personality disorder in the form of her dead sibling and was admitted to the Napa State Mental Institution, simply known as "Imola" to its residents. By controlling her sister's body, Lilin escapes from the institution and begins a killing spree throughout northern California. Calling on the lessons learned in her therapy sessions and with the support of investigative reporter Jason Powers, Agnes begins to challenge her maniacal sister. Wrestling with the secrets of her dark past and her persistent inner demon, Agnes finds herself in the ultimate battle to regain her life.
The Dead Eyes Killer
The 7th Victim
By Alan Jacobson
The infamous “Dead Eyes Killer” is on the loose torturing and maiming young women. In comes gritty FBI profiler Karen Vail and her task force who is in charge of capturing this elusive murderer before the body count rises. When the 7th victim is discovered, the team realizes that their killer may be closer than they think.
Every element in this book is right up my alley…the serial killer, the FBI profiling, the police procedural, the plot foils and twists, yet, as it took me over a week to read (which rarely ever happens), I kept thinking to myself... why am I not totally into this story? The answer: I think I’ve read too many serial killer books and it's time to move on to another genre ... for awhile.
But for all of you out there who continue to love a good psychological thriller, I would highly recommend this novel. Not only was it a “who-dunnit”, but the author takes the time to flesh out the personal life of the main character (trust me, she’s having a really bad life). Jacobson also gives the reader little flashes into the mind and motivations of the killer which always keeps things interesting. The twist at the end would have been more shocking if that storyline wasn’t used in so many other novels. All in all, The 7th Victim is a well researched, well paced story that has been receiving great recommendations from both readers, authors and Amazon reviewers.
Posted by The Rogue Reader
Horror master Peter Straub returns!
A Dark Matter (2009) Coming Soon!
The charismatic and cunning Spenser Mallon is a campus guru in the 1960s, attracting the devotion and demanding sexual favors of his young acolytes. After he invites his most fervent followers to attend a secret ritual in a local meadow, the only thing that remains is a gruesomely dismembered body - and the shattered souls of all who were present....Years later, one man attempts to understand what happened to his wife and to his friends by writing a book about this horrible night, and it's through this process that they begin to examine the unspeakable events that have bound them in ways they cannot fathom, but that have haunted every one of them through their lives.
Psychological thriller promises big chills
Worst Nightmares (2009) New!
by Shane Briant
The Cryptkeeper says:
I ran across a review of this book in Publisher's Weekly and was totally intrigued -- the premise sounds ghoulishly delightful, and twisted in all the right ways. See if you don't agree.
From Publisher's Weekly:
Fans of Stephen King's novella Secret Window, Secret Garden will enjoy seeing how Briant handles a similar plot in his creepy debut. A deranged vagrant, Albert K. Arnold, delivers a manuscript titled My Worst Nightmares -- My Delicious Memoirs to bestselling author Dermot Nolan at Nolan's converted warehouse home in downtown L.A. My Worst Nightmares chronicles the atrocities of a serial killer who lures victims through a Web site, Dream Healer, and then slaughters them in ways that conjure up their worst phobias. After Arnold dies from a fall from a building, Nolan, who's in a profound writing slump and under increasing pressure to produce a new book, appropriates the manuscript and publishes it successfully as his own work. Growing evidence that Arnold's writings weren't fiction causes Nolan and his family no little concern. While many will anticipate the real villain's identity, Briant has crafted an exciting page-turner that bodes well for future thrillers from his pen.
Gritty, legal thriller is horrific
Only Child New! (previously published as Stranglehold)
by Jack Ketchum
The Cryptkeeper says:
Oy vey! This was a tough one ... boy, Jack Ketchum is definitely not for the faint of heart. He pulls no punches ever and this one is no exception. Just like his other infamous, traumatizing novel -- The Girl Next Door -- Only Child is inspired by true events -- and what a horrible and depressing story that deals not only with domestic violence, but with child sexual abuse, and sadistic serial torture killings. Give me supernatural horror any day because at least then I don't have to brood about the real consequences for the real people involved. This one does not have a happy ending and left me feeling really icky. But it was compelling and well-written. Grade: B-
Click here for previous posts containing Jack Ketchum
Southern gothic ghost story delivers!
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming (2008)
by Joshilyn Jackson
The Cryptkeeper says: This one has everything -- ghosts, buried family secrets, betrayal, mystery, and a rich Southern setting. Not to mention a delicious lead-up to an explosive finish!
Entertainment Weekly says:
"A ghost story, family psychodrama, and murder mystery all in one. Jackson's latest is a wild, smartly calibrated achievement. Grade: A-."
Publisher's Weekly says: "Jackson matches effortless Southern storytelling with a keen eye for character and heart-stopping circumstances."
Lauren Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother keep family skeletons in the closet or sewing her acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister, Thalia, is her opposite, an impoverished actress who prides herself on exposing the lurid truths lurking behind middle class niceties. While Laurel's life seems neatly on track -- a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, a lovely suburban home -- everything she holds dear is threatened the night she is visited by the ghost of her 13-year-old neighbor Molly. The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly, floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne's backyard pool. Molly's death is an unseemly mystery that no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Laurel enlists Thalia's help, even though she knows it comes with a high price tag. Together, they set out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about their family's haunted past, the true state of Laurel's marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.
******Recommended Readalike: Sharp Objects (2006), by Gillian Flynn
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