Review of A Life Removed by Jason Parent

Review of A Life Removed by Jason ParentI went into this book with no real expectations. I hadn’t read any of Jason Parent’s work before and, though I believe he’s a multi-genre author (a smart move these days), I assumed A Life Removed was a horror novel. Don’t ask me why.

Imagine my surprise—and a pleasant one, at that—when it turned out to be a thriller/mystery. It’s been quite a while since I read anything in the genre, and it was a nice change from what I usually read.

The story revolves around three characters: Officer Aaron Pimental, a depressed, lost individual, Detective Bruce Marklin, a cynical hard-nosed cop, and his partner, Detective Jocelyn Beaudette, who seems to have a more hopeful outlook than the other two characters.

The three become embroiled in a case involving a series of brutal murders in which the victims are seemingly unrelated, other than the way they are killed, which appears to involve some kind of grotesque ritual.

The story unfolds slowly, with the author employing a series of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing every step of the way. You don’t know who to trust, and this creates an atmosphere of on-edge-of-your-seat suspense. One caveat: if you’re squeamish, this novel may make you uneasy; it’s got its share of violence and dark description. I go there in my own writing all the time, and it’s often in the books I normally seek out to read, so I wasn’t at all bothered, but you may be, so be warned.

Jason sent me a free copy of A Life Removed in exchange for a fair review, and I’m glad he did. As I said before, it was a nice change of pace from my usual diet of horror (though still decidedly horrific), and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think you will too.

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso. You can learn more about Jason, his upcoming works and his appearances at authorjasonparent.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

A Review of The Fisherman by John Langan

A Review of The Fisherman by John LanganIt’s pretty tough when the last book you read was so good that you find it difficult to pick the next thing you want to read, because everything else seems to pale in comparison. Such was the case after I finished reading John Langan‘s epic horror novel, The Fisherman. In short, it’s a bit of a masterpiece.

It took Langan roughly twelve years to finish the book, which is astonishing by today’s put-a-book-out-every-three-months general standard for authors struggling to remain in vogue with the short-attention-span-social media-get-the-next-thing-now-on-Amazon generation.

But the time he spent on the novel shows, in its detail and its beauty, not to mention the fact that it’s simply a damn good story.

It’s about Abe and Dan, two widowers who take up the pastime of fishing to distract them from their recent loss. They eventually come across rumors of a place in upstate New York, near Woodstock, called Dutchman’s Creek. When they stop in at a diner on their way there, the diner’s cook tries to dissuade them from their venture with stories of the creek’s dangerously steep banks and strong current, and of the people who have gone there, never to be seen again.

Then the cook shares with them a tale of the history of the creek, and of the town that used to exist nearby, and of the mysterious Fisherman, and Dutchman’s Creek soon takes on a much more sinister aspect.

What Abe and Dan discover on their fishing trip seems at first to be a dream come true, with all the temptation of a shiny new lure, but they learn to their horror that the beautiful bait hides a sharp, rusty hook—and that the dream come true is in reality a hideous nightmare.

John Langan took home a Stoker Award for this achievement, and deservedly so. I just hope I don’t have to wait over a decade for his next effort.

 

A review of We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

A review of We Are Always Watching by Hunter SheaHunter Shea graciously sent me his recent novel We Are Always Watching. I was honored, and even more so after I read it.

The story concerns the Ridleys, a family having fallen on hard times after the father, Matt, was severely injured when his car was slammed into by a drunk driver. Not only can Matt no longer work a job (he has constant vertigo and nausea), but he’s become all but useless to his wife, Debi, and his teenage son, West. Their situation forces them to abandon their life in New York City and move into Matt’s childhood home with his father.

The place is a ramshackle farmhouse in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, and Matt’s father, Abraham (a great character, by the way), is a mean, cantankerous old man who makes them all feel unwelcome and uneasy from the minute they move in. For one thing, he tells West that the house is haunted, and the old man’s claims are reinforced by strange sounds throughout the house and cryptic messages left by the mysterious Guardians.

In the midst of his misery and loneliness, West sets out to explore the surrounding countryside and happens upon one of his few neighbors, a pretty young girl named Faith. He falls immediately in love with her, and feels he has an ally and a companion.

One mystery leads to the next as you become entangled in this dark and creepy tale, intent on discovering who the Guardians are and why they continuously torment the Ridley family.

One important thing about this story—nothing is as it seems. Hunter Shea is a master of misdirection, which is vital when it comes to a mystery. We Are Always Watching will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat right up to its explosive conclusion.

I highly recommend this book, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Shea’s work.

The Rib From Which I Remake The World by Ed Kurtz

the rib from which i remake the world by ed kurtzI’m a writer, not a book reviewer, so I don’t normally critique books I read. There are others far better at that sort of thing than I, like Adrian Shotbolt of The Grim Reader, Jim Mcleod of Ginger Nuts of Horror, and Shane Douglas Keene of Shotgun Logic. If I’m not particularly impressed by a book, I usually won’t mention it in public at all. If I like a book or its author’s other works I’ll absolutely share it on social media. But when I love a book, as in the case of The Rib From Which I Remake The World by Ed Kurtz, I can’t wait to tell others about it. Because, like I’ve said before, word of mouth is a writer’s best friend.

This novel is spectacular. The story itself is a bit of a horror/noir hybrid, heavy on the “horror,” with just a soupçon of Stephen King’s Needful Things. It’s about the WWII-era town of Litchfield, Arkansas, which has been visited by a very odd theater troupe.

But the story is mainly about George “Jojo” Walker, a man who is introduced to you not long after a series of terrible events have all but ruined his life. Very noir. Just after the inciting incident—a murder in the hotel where Jojo works as the house “dick”—things go quickly sideways. What follows is the horrific tale of a man who must save his home town from an insidious evil while at the same time trying to save himself from his own past. Jojo is aided in his mission by a small cast of other colorful characters, as well as hampered by a pair of truly despicable villains. Whether he finds redemption or damnation in the end, I’ll leave for you to discover.

Ed Kurtz is one hell of a writer. There is a depth of imagination and intelligence in his storytelling that I’ve not come across in some time, and I found myself envious of his talent as I read this novel. That doesn’t happen to me too often, so you must appreciate how hard that is for a self-aggrandizing, hypersensitive writer like me to admit. But good is good, and Kurtz fucking is.

So I urge you to get The Rib From Which I Remake The World by Ed Kurtz, now. You won’t regret it.

Well. Maybe after you turn out the lights.

 

13 books that scared the hell out of me

There’s a ton of books that didn’t make this list; stuff by Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and a score of others. Not to mention a handful of new writers I’ve discovered more recently. It’s not that they don’t deserve a spot. Of course they do. But this isn’t a list of a hundred books that scared me shitless, only thirteen. Why? Because the number 13 is cool and creepy. Besides that, I’m lazy. Which is also why these aren’t in-depth reviews, but only recommendations. And who knows, maybe I’ll compile more of these lists as time goes by. So, without further ado, here are 13 books that scared the hell out of me: Continue Reading →