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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street,  East Providence, RI 02914

Last Update 2/17/18

Katastrophe by Randall Boyll, Avon, 2001 

Although this longish novel involves reincarnation, it is only horror by courtesy. A college professor submits to hypnosis during which he identifies himself as the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. A sensationalist reporter happens to be present and turns it into an international news story as cultists, neo-Nazis, journalists, and a host of other interested parties all want to talk to our hero. It ruins his family’s life and causes something of a global furor. There is a lot of satire mixed with the suspense. The plot could have used considerable trimming. Several of the subplots really contribute little to the story. 2/17/18

Child of Shadows by John Coyne, Warner, 1990 

Coyne’s last horror novel has some minor problems, but for the most part is quite good. A woman with a troubled childhood takes a feral child found in the New York subways and illegally moves to rural North Carolina. There is a local cult that believes a bald headed boy – the feral child – is a sign that the day of judgment is at hand. A string of deaths occurs, some of them clearly performed by the town’s madwoman, but others seem to implicate the boy, who paints superb pictures of the crime scenes he supposedly has not seen. There are some minor problems – not the least of which is the virtual abduction of the child by the protagonist, but the story moves reasonably well and it is easy to overlook these minor flaws. 2/15/18

Fury by John Coyne, Warner, 1989  

Unfortunately this is a pretty bad book by an otherwise good writer. It mixes ghosts, aliens, and reincarnation, embellishes them with a lot of nonsense, advances the plot by a steady string of coincidences, and features characters whose actions occasionally make no sense. A female lawyer somehow wakens an earlier version of herself and is now possessed of superhuman strength and speed. She is twice attacked over the course of the next few nights and kills three people with her bare hands. There are multiple murders and assaults, but no one ever calls the police and no one is charged. The protagonist turns out to have been the very first human being, whatever that might mean, and her hereditary enemy was the first murderer. Pretty dreadful from beginning to end. 2/13/18

The Hunting Season by John Coyne, Warner, 1987 

An anthropologist, her husband the lawyer, and their two children take up summer residence in a remote part of the Catskills where she plans to study a local community so inbred that there are major physical deformities. But there is something hidden in the community that resists being examined too closely and the husband has a dark secret of his own which will eventually lead to violence and death. This was my least favorite book by this author. Despite some good scenes early on, the climax is unsatisfying and not entirely logical, and sometimes the characters seem to act contrary to their personalities. 2/10/18

The Shroud by John Coyne, Berkley, 1983 

Coyne once again chooses a protagonist who is a priest who is beginning to lose faith in his vocation. There is also some pretty clear criticism of the hypocrisy of the Catholic church hierarchy. Father Ignatius was a foundling and he has been having visions in which an African witch woman tells him that he needs to kill his brother. The parish where he works - which is about to be abandoned for financial reasons - has a lot of homeless people, many of whom have recently disappeared. Both he and a social worker have had glimpses of an apparent homeless man who looks like the priest's twin, and he has also seen the figure inside the rectory, wrapped in a shroud, though the figure always disappears when spotted. He is also concerned about his supervising priest, who is obsessed with the basement which he keeps locked. Somewhat slow moving, but the creepiness grows steadily toward the climax. 2/7/18

For a Glimpse Beyond the Terminus by Jordan R. Anderson, Self Published, 2017, $9.99, ISBN 978-0998354132

A collection of unrelated stories, mostly skewed toward horror. The stories generally involve an individual who has some sort of severe psychological or physical crisis which triggers changes to his or her personality. They are very strong on atmosphere and psychology and avoid overt action, gore, and other characteristics of the genre. There were a few places where the prose goes into more detail than is necessary and this can disrupt the packing, but for the most part they are well told and interesting in their own right. 2/6/18

Widow's Point by Richard Chizmar and Billy Chizmar, CD, 2018, $25, ISBN 978-1-58767-647-5

This is a somewhat old fashioned novella about a haunted lighthouse. So many unexplained deaths occurred there that the building was abandoned and surrounded by a security fence for years. A man who makes a living "investigating" psychic phenomena decides to spend a night there, and the results are not entirely unexpected. The first half of the story, which deals with the history of the lighthouse, is very well done and more than adequately builds the suspense. The second half was not as successful, with an inevitable murky ending. The suspense is diminished, I thought, by having so much of the text being a transcript of the protagonist's recordings, which are mostly short sound bites that could have used a little more substantial formulation to keep the tension high. 1/27/18

Strange Weather by Joe Hill, Morrow, 2017, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-06-266311-5

I was tempted to put this in science fiction because three of the four stories have rationalizations of a sort. One involves a man who finds himself on a solidified cloud that is apparently some sort of vehicle for an alien life form whose maintenance system is desperate for company. Another involves a chemical alteration to the atmosphere which causes rain to fall in the form of sharp, heavy crystals which are lethal to people who are not undercover. A third is about a camera that steals memories when it is used, but even this has a quasi-rational explanation. The fourth, and weakest, is about a gun nut who is inexorably nudged toward committing a series of murders. The other three stories are excellent and the last is quite readable. These are all novellas, a form which is underutilized in every genre. 1/23/18

Hobgoblin by John Coyne, Berkley, 1981

An introverted teenager addicted to a D&D type adventure game called Hobgoblin runs into trouble with the bullies at his new school. His mother, who is writing a history of a local estate that comes complete with an Irish castle, turns up evidence of a strange series of deaths of young women. The elderly caretaker suggests to her son that hobgoblins are real and he - and others - begin to catch glimpses of creatures that should only have existed within the game. The basic plot in this one is pretty good but the pacing is very slow, particularly in the first half.  1/15/18

The Searing by John Coyne, Berkley, 1980 

A new housing development has some unusual associated phenomena. For one thing, children begin dying mysteriously. For another, all of the adult women are being hit with involuntary orgasms as though someone was projecting a force in the area. Is it the CIA man who is working on a secret electronic project in his basement or is it the autistic girl who seems to be present when all of these things are happening? This was more interesting that the author's first two horror novels, but the motivations and reactions of the characters are often unconvincing. Though terrified, no one actually gets up and leaves. The police seem oddly uninterested in the situation. Doctors notice brain damage in the victims but are not inclined to look into the matter. 1/13/18

The Piercing by John Coyne, Berkley, 1979 

A young girl from rural Appalachia begins displaying stigmata and has visions of the Crucifixion even though she is a Baptist. Two very flawed Catholic priests take an interest in her for different reasons while battling their own internal demons. A mysterious neighbor lurks about and the reader is aware that he was the real cause of the girl’s transformation, and it is entirely possible that he is Satan or one of his minions. The two priests react very differently and not always entirely believably. Deaths follow before it is revealed – though it is no secret – that the devil has set up the whole sequence of events in a plan to capture one priest’s soul.  Entertaining, but a bit talky. 1/11/18

Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters, Apex, 2018, $14.95, ISBN 978-1937009618

This is a collection of short stories but not specifically horror. There are also stories of SF and fantasy, although the tone is often brooding in those as well. My first impression after reading them was contradictory. On the one hand, the majority of them seemed to me emotionally and often thematically similar, but then I realized that the plots themselves - which involve everything from outer space to Lovecraftian horror and other monsters. I didn't even mind that many of them were in present tense narration - which works much better in short stories than in novels - although the second person narration was too artificial for me. Most of these first appeared in relatively obscure venues so they should be new to most readers. These are more stories of psychology and reflection than action and adventure, but they are often quite tense.1/6/18

Apart in the Dark by Ania Ahlborn, Gallery, 2018, $16, ISBN 978-1-5011-8753-7

This book consists of two unrelated novellas which apparently were previously published as ebooks only. I slight preferred "I Call Upon Thee" which is a rather traditional but quite atmospheric story of a young woman who believed a dark presence hovered over her when she was younger. Now an adult, she decides to return to her home and confront her childhood fears, only to discover that they are not in fact unfounded. The accompanying story, "The Pretty Ones," is set during the reign of terror of the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, who killed or injured more than a dozen people. The protagonist is a young woman who has trouble making friends, and who may be making the wrong ones even when she does succeed. Both stories are very dependent on characterization, focus on alienation from others and the inter-relationships of families, and the second is somewhat depressing overall. The author makes use of a quieter form of horror, somewhat reminiscent of Charles L. Grant, but what might seem slow pacing will actually insidiously drag you into the story.  1/4/18