THE DROWNING KIND by Jennifer McMahon

April 25, 2021

From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.

Jennifer McMahon’s latest book is not at all surprising – a horror story. She has written in this genre for many years, and been quite successful in scaring the heck out of her readers. Pleased to inform the prospective readers that her writing continues with the same scary format so be warned. Don’t sit down at night with no one else home.     

The story flips back and forth between two generations about fifty years apart. It tells about two women subjected to the same horror and how they deal with it. The connection between them becomes apparent during a well contrived ending.   

Jax is the women living in the present with the occupation of social worker. We meet her at the point of having to rush back to her girlhood home when she is told that her sister Alexis (Lexie) has died. The two have been estranged for quite a while due to Lexie’s pushing her away and her death due to drowning is sudden and unexpected.       

Ethel Monroe is a 37-year-old newlywed in 1929 and desperately wanting to have a baby. Her husband takes her on a trip to Vermont where a natural spring is showcased by a new, very modern hotel. Her husband is a doctor who can practice medicine where he likes, and to please his new wife they move up to the area where the hotel and the spring are close.     

The two women are both affected by the spring, a lake and events surrounding it.  McMahon has the knack of building her stories up slowly but surely and reaching a crescendo for her readers. Where the horror comes in to the story is the plot of the book and a logical and frightening circumstance that makes “The Drowning Kind” another Jennifer McMahon excellent read.

4/2021 Paul Lane

THE DROWNING KIND by Jennifer McMahon. Gallery/Scout Press (April 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-1982153922. 336 pages.







MURDER RUN by John Hunt

November 22, 2020

From the publisher:

Kyle didn’t like being told what to do. When his brother demanded that he get himself home right now, no stopping, no passing GO and no collecting two-hundred dollars, the order didn’t sit well with him. So, he stopped at a bar in an unknown town. He met a girl. They drank, left, did drugs together, and when he awoke in the morning, her decapitated head lay in his lap. As he pieces together what happened the night before, a police cruiser rolls in behind him. From that moment, the chase is on. What Kyle doesn’t know is that he isn’t the only killer in town.

John Hunt’s forte is telling horror stories. The current one is certainly right smack dab in the genre. The book opens as Kyle is driving home after serving a sentence in prison for second-degree murder. He is an individual whose background is dark and a personality that is unable to control impulses to lash out violently when angered.

He lives with his brother who takes care of him since their parents are both deceased. His brother had told him in no uncertain terms to drive straight home without stopping for anything. Kyle, though decides that it has been a long time since he has had a beer and stops at a bar. While drinking he picks up a woman and they go out to his car for a bit of sexual activity. In the activity Kyle passes out and when he awakens he sees the woman next to him but with her head away from the rest of the body.

The only thing Kyle can think of is to flee the scene and try to make it back to his brother. And therein begins a story which incorporates a lot of killing including a female police officer and friends of the woman whose head he chopped off. It also utilizes the services of a genuine monster who contributes to the number of bodies stacking up. Many of the murders are described in a lurid highly descriptive manner which might bring on a feeling of repulsiveness on the part of the reader. These killings and the manner some are handled are certainly a part of the miasma hanging over the story.

Horror stories are certainly a part of the literary experience and have been so for many years. For example, the books by Edgar Allan Poe are enjoyed today with some of these incorporating horror. Hunt does them well and I can’t see not reading them along with books with other themes to make for a more complete reading experience.

11/2020 Paul Lane

MURDER RUN by John Hunt. Independently published (September 7, 2020). ISBN: 979-8666485477. 299 pages.






THE PATIENT by Jasper DeWitt

July 21, 2020


From the publisher:

The Silent Patient by way of Stephen King: Parker, a young, overconfident psychiatrist new to his job at a mental asylum, miscalculates catastrophically when he undertakes curing a mysterious and profoundly dangerous patient.

In a series of online posts, Parker H., a young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England. Through this internet message board, Parker hopes to communicate with the world his effort to cure one bewildering patient.

We learn, as Parker did on his first day at the hospital, of the facility’s most difficult, profoundly dangerous case—a forty-year-old man who was originally admitted to the hospital at age six. This patient has no known diagnosis. His symptoms seem to evolve over time. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.

Desperate and fearful, the hospital’s directors keep him strictly confined and allow minimal contact with staff for their own safety, convinced that releasing him would unleash catastrophe on the outside world. Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But from his first encounter with the mystery patient, things spiral out of control, and, facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, Parker is forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Fans of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes and Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World will be riveted by Jasper DeWitt’s astonishing debut.

A well-done horror story written in a low-key style guaranteed to build up the terror using the first-person narrative by the principal character. A newly graduated psychiatrist, Parker takes his first job at a mental institution in the state of Connecticut. He is determined to help the patients assigned to him to the best of his ability. On the first day at his new job, Parker becomes aware of Joe, a 40-year-old patient, that has been there since he was six years of age. There is no working diagnosis for the man and several previous doctors have come to grief in vain efforts to cure him.

Parker sees a challenge in effecting a treatment for Joe and manages to work himself into the position of handling his treatment. During his first session with the patient, Parker comes to the conclusion that Joe is apparently normal and suspects that he is being held at the hospital because his parents continue to pay for his care. Acting on his own conclusion Parker confronts the medical staff at the institution questioning the years of poor diagnosis. He also visits Joe’s parents and with the help of the mother, completes an inspection of the house, and particularly the boy’s bedroom.

Parker’s findings provide an answer to the reason Joe has been diagnosed as mentally ill. DeWitt’s description of the cause introduces a unique answer that certainly delves deeply into a nightmare world and makes the ending as gripping as can be. A short book but certainly one that presents the author as a literary force to be reckoned with causing the reader to certainly look for succeeding novels by him.

7/2020 Paul Lane

THE PATIENT by Jasper DeWitt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (July 7, 2020). ISBN: 978-0358181767. 224 pages.



A RUSH OF BLOOD by David Mark

January 16, 2020


From the publisher:

Ten-year-old Hilda’s search for her missing friend has terrible consequences in this gripping psychological thriller.

When her friend Meda fails to turn up for dance class one evening, 10-year-old Hilda is convinced that something bad has happened to her, despite Meda’s family’s reassurances. Unable to shake off her concerns, Hilda turns to her mother, Molly, for help. Molly runs the Jolly Bonnet, a pub with links to the Whitechapel murders of a century before and a meeting place for an assortment of eccentrics drawn to its warm embrace. Among them is Lottie. Pathologist by day, vlogger by night, Lottie enlists the help of her army of online fans – and uncovers evidence that Meda isn’t the first young girl to go missing.

But Molly and Lottie’s investigations attract unwelcome attention. Two worlds are about to collide in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on the rain-lashed streets of London’s East End, a historic neighbourhood that has run red with the blood of innocents for centuries.

David Mark gives us a stand-alone novel with his current book. It is a horror story and if you like the genre a good one. The book takes place in England in modern times but with a haunting attachment to the murders by Jack the Ripper in the 1860s. The novel begins with 10-year-old Hilda beginning to worry about her friend Meda who hasn’t shown up for their dance class. Hilda tells her mother about her worries but with the result that Meda’s family doesn’t appear to be overly concerned about their daughter’s whereabouts.

Hilda’s mother, Molly, runs the Jolly Bonnet, a pub with links to the Whitechapel murders of a hundred years before. The scene is populated by characters reminiscent of a bloody past and an overriding interest by leading personnel in blood, its transfusion, discoveries of its nature down through the centuries, and its twisted use by the villain of the piece.

The individual committing crimes including the kidnapping of Meda is introduced at the beginning of the novel. This is done undoubtedly to paint a complete picture of the person, what has twisted him and made a homicidal maniac out of him. For those not averse to reading a novel steeped in horror, “A Rush of Blood” will be a rewarding experience with definite plans to read additional books by this author.

1/2020 Paul Lane

A RUSH OF BLOOD by David Mark. Severn House Publishers; Main edition (January 7, 2020). ISBN 978-0727889058. 224p.



October 24, 2019

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When the Addamsville high school janitor is killed in a suspicious house fire, Zora Novak is the prime suspect in the arson.  After all, she has a history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to fire, and the Novak family is not exactly beloved by the rest of the citizens of Addamsville.  What no one else knows is that Zora can see ghosts and hunts demons called firestarters.  With the whole town turning against her, Zora begins looking for the real killer, who is likely connected to a string of deadly fires that struck Addamsville thirty years earlier.  Zora’s investigation, with help from her cousin Artemis, is complicated when the crew of a ghost-hunting television show arrives in town.

If you are like me and prefer your ghost stories to fall more into the category of creepy and atmospheric than outright horror, then you will likely enjoy Zappia’s latest novel.   Zappia does an excellent job of establishing the world and lore of Addmasville.  From the descriptions of the small midwestern town and its history of the paranormal, to Zora’s own family history of a missing mother and an ability to see ghosts.  Zora’s propensity to get in trouble while trying to secretly fight monsters will likely remind many readers of a certain Vampire Slayer.  Zora is a compelling main character who is resourceful, snarky and surrounded by an interesting cast of secondary characters, including her cousin and older sister, who are also willing to jump in a fight Addamsville’s ghosts and demons.  The plot moves quickly, and with plenty of descriptions of abandoned mines, cemetery’s and old houses, Now Entering Addamsville is the perfect read for the Halloween season. Now Entering Addamsville has a satisfying conclusion, but Zappia leaves enough of loose ends that there is plenty of material for a sequel, and I am eager for the chance to return to Addamsville.

A creepy Halloween read perfect for fans of Stranger Things, Supernatural, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

10/19 Caitlin Brisson

NOW ENTERING ADDAMSVILLE by Francesca Zappia. Greenwillow Books (October 1, 2019). ISBN 9780062935274. 368 p.



INSPECTION by Josh Malerman

March 19, 2019

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Malerman has the wonderful ability to deliver exciting books with “different” plots for his readers. Inspection is no exception to this rule.

At the beginning the reader will fully be invested in the idea that it is a situation existing in a future when “Big Brother” is watching every move made by the residents of their country. This is not the case. It is set in a present time when a radical deviation from the norm has been set up by wealthy people interested in proving a point they are sure of.

Two separate schools have been built in a forest location very far from prying eyes. One is an institution populated only by boys with no females around, and the other by girls with no males around. Each has existed for years with no contact with the outside world. The children, as they are, have no nouns in their language that lead to the realization that there is an opposite sex. They have been given the names only of the letters of the alphabet and told that they developed on special trees and taken off when ready to survive on their own.

The head of the boys unit is known as D.A.D. with the girls’ supervisor M.O.M. The children are being trained with advanced courses in the arts and sciences with the thinking that left without the distraction of sex they will not be subjected to the strains that normally exist with the interaction between men and women. They will, therefore develop into geniuses and make contributions to mankind beyond the normality of other groups growing up in regular circumstances.

The story moves between the boy “J” and the girl “K” as they both independently begin questioning their supervision and the constraints of their sheltered existences. The ending is a completely logical one given the circumstances as developed and complete an extremely engrossing novel. Several sleepless, but rewarding, nights are in store for the reader as they are drawn into the world created by the author. Very well done.

3/19 Paul Lane

INSPECTION by Josh Malerman. Del Rey (March 19, 2019). ISBN 978-1524796990 400p.



THE MANSION by Ezekiel Boone

December 7, 2018

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Ezekiel Boone, the master of the macabre, presents his latest novel which could be a ghost story or possibly a tale about an entity run amock.

In any of the cases, it is well done and a fascinating read as the reader is drawn into a dark world and certainly a mesmerizing one. At one point several years prior to the opening of the book Billy Stafford and Shawn Eagle were partners in an attempt to create a computer that was intuitive rather than one that worked only one or zero as is common today. They worked like men possessed both nights and days while living in a country shack owned by Eagle’s family. They ate what they could scrounge and lived for the work.

Shawn began seeing a young lady and fell for her head over heels. Suddenly there was a break in the partnership and it was Billy Stafford that left along with Emily, Shawn’s girlfriend. Almost at the same time Shawn developed an advanced computing system and became an overnight billionaire. Billy and Emily married but lived in poverty with Billy falling prey to drinking and becoming a drunk.

At a point in the future Shawn decides to resurrect a next generation computer that he and Billy were working on prior to the split. He recognizes that only Billy has the skill to complete this project and proposes that Billy come to work again with him with the chance of making a fortune if the project is successful. The work is set up in a reconstructed building next to the shack they utilized years ago. The computer has been given the name of “Nellie” and what occurs with it makes for a fascinating look at either a ghost or ??

An all-nighter, the book has very well delineated characters appearing and moving the plot rapidly along.

12/18 Paul Lane

THE MANSION by Ezekiel Boone. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (December 4, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501165504. 432p.



THE NIGHT CROSSING by Robert Masello

September 23, 2018

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Masello’s forte is the writing of historical novels with a touch of the supernatural included; “The Night Crossing” is no exception. It is set in England during the late 1800s and early 1900s and features the author Bram (Abraham) Stoker.

Stoker contributed more than a few books to the world of literature but is most remembered for “Dracula,” a novel about an undead Vampire living in Transylvania but than migrating to London spreading his horrors there.

This story opens when Mina, an intrepid explorer who is seeking out old ruins working in the Carpathian mountains, discovers a beautiful golden box and brings it back with her to England completely unaware of it’s evil power. She meets Stoker who is working as the manager of a successful theater and attempting part time to establish himself as a major author. Mina and Bram meet while becoming involved in a deadly plot that the wealthy owners of a safe haven for the poor have going for them. It is discovered that what these people who are brother and sister are engaged in is using ancient Egyptian methods in forestalling the aging process while using people staying at their safe haven as objects to utilize in their methods.

The couple own a factory making matches, using the poor as low or no paid workers to do so. The methods involve taking their souls and incorporating them into their own while killing the donor. Stoker and Mina are approached by Lucinda, who is an employee of the factory and mother to one of the children used to harvest the soul. They begin their investigation and in determining what is going on Masello makes the insinuation that in thinking about the possible eternal life gained by the couple and the source of Mina’s find of the golden box Stoker conceives the basic idea of the “Dracula” novel.

One of the coincidences of the period the novel is set in in real life is that Bram Stoker died five days after the headlines of the sinking of the Titanic appeared. Masello takes advantage of this and places Stoker and Mina aboard the doomed Titanic in their pursuit of the non aging couple they have chased for many years. The ship’s fate is chronicled faithfully indicating a good deal of research and an interest in it’s fate by the author. The description and the inclusion of people that actually were present makes for a very well done final setting to an excellent novel and adds to the story rather than steering it in another direction.

The presence of Bram Stoker on the Titanic is literary license- he never set foot upon her.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE NIGHT CROSSING by Robert Masello. 47North (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1503904118. 448p.




July 5, 2018
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From the publisher:

The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense that recalls Stephen King’s  Misery, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and Jack Ketchum’s cult hit The Girl Next Door.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.

It seems to me that this story falls somewhere between thriller and horror. It’s suspenseful but not quite at the level of breathlessness I find with a Stephen King novel, but certainly more than most thrillers. The basic story of a home invasion where a young child is involved is pretty much every parent’s nightmare, and this one was well played.

It is a fast read at only 288 pages, and the suspense definitely helps keep the pages turning. I would have liked a bit more character development but for the most part, this is a good read. The terror feels real and so did the ending, and I can’t ask for more than that.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Paul Tremblay. William Morrow (June 26, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062679109.  288p.


OTHERWORLD CHILLS by Kelley Armstrong

October 9, 2016


Kelley Armstrong returns to her beloved Women of the Otherworld series in this latest offering featuring seven “final” tales of the series.

Here’s the full table of contents:

“Brazen” – a werewolf tale mostly from Nick’s point of view

“Chaotic” – Hope and Karl’s first story

“Amityville Horrible” – a Jaime and Jeremy tale

“Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” – a vampire tale featuring Zoe

“Off-Duty Angel” – finds Eve on a mission for Kristof

“The Puppy Plan” – a holiday story featuring Logan

“Baby Boom” – a brand spanking new Paige/Lucas story

Considering this collection releases in October, it’s likely many will agree with me when I say “Amityville Horrible” is particularly delightful and appropriately creepy.

The stories are meaty novellas rather than shorts, giving readers a chance to settle in a bit with each tale. Fans of the series likely have seen a few of the selections before – “Chaotic” for example did appear in the Kim Harrison edited anthology Dates From Hell, and introduced Hope to the series, while “Off Duty Angel” appeared in Armstrong’s The Hunter and the Hunted e book/short back in 2012. But one entry, “Baby Boom,” is completely new to the collection. Plus, considering the series wrapped back in 2012 with the release of Thirteen, I’d bet fans have been craving a bit of a return to the characters we all came to know and love over the course of thirteen plus tales.

10/16 Becky LeJeune

OTHERWORLD CHILLS by Kelley Armstrong. Plume (October 4, 2016).  ISBN 978-0452298361. 464p.