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

Last Update 5/22/17

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar, Cemetery Dance, 2017, $25, ISBN 978-1-58767-610-9 

Gwendy is a young girl living in Castle Rock, Maine, who encounters a strange man who gives her a peculiar box. She knows she should never push the red button but circumstances don’t always leave us a lot of choices. This is a low key but otherwise typical Stephen King type story, less overt than most, perhaps because of his co-author’s inclinations. I enjoyed it more than I normally would have – it's written in present tense which I find almost impossible to tolerate in anything other than a short story – and although I think the price is rather high for the content, it’s otherwise very much worth your while. 5/22/17

Full Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child, Doubleday, 2017,  $26.95, ISBN 978-0-385-53142-9

This is a rationalized werewolf story and it's pretty well done, though perhaps the weakest of Child's solo novels. It is also marred by some things an editor should have caught. For example, two hikers are killed and torn apart on successive full moons. Both are in remote locations and by the time their bodies are discovered, they are in a state of "advanced decomposition." Yet somehow the authorities know that each was killed on the night of a full moon. How would they know that? There is also a reclusive clan who refuse to allow the police on their property. No mention is ever made of a warrant, which would almost certainly have been denied because there is no probable cause. Nevertheless the police intend to storm the compound. The problem with werewolf novels is that they almost always end up being about identifying who is the shapechanger, and that's what happens here. 5/21/17

Ararat by Christopher Golden, St Martins, 2017, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-250-11705-2 

An earthquake reveals the ruins of Noah's Ark high on Mount Ararat. A varied group of investigators ascends or is delivered by helicopter to explore the interior, which includes a coffin inside of which are the apparent remains of a horned demon. The atmosphere becomes increasingly strained and then the killings begin. This is a reasonably suspenseful novel, but the evil is too powerful and unrestricted to be really interesting. It is clear that it will be mostly by chance if anyone survives. 5/13/17

Nights of Blood and Wine by Freda Warrington, Telos, 2017, $18.99, ISBN 9781-84583-951-2  

I have read very little by this author but I have been aware of the fact that she has written a series of romantic vampire novels (as opposed to vampire romances). The first half of this collection of stories is set within that backdrop, while the second half consists of various other takes on the vampire. I tended to prefer the latter, although a couple in the first part were also pretty good. Warrington has a very pleasant prose style and creates some memorable imagery. It's not a subgenre I generally find appealing, but these were all quite readable. 5/10/17

Resurrection Pass by Kurt Anderson, Pinnacle, 2017, $9.9, ISBN 978-0-7860-3681-3

I really enjoyed this author's previous, Devour, which was about a prehistoric shark. This time we have a group of modern age prospectors looking for an almost magical new mineral in a remote area. They are attacked by a gigantic creature that lives underground and sends tentacles up to claim its prey. They also have to worry about a group of ordinary humans who don't want them around. I was mildly disappointed. The story is quite exciting and certainly not slow, but there was a bit too much of the creature and without any buildup, so there was very little suspense before things became frantic. It didn't help that I disliked the protagonist. Still worth reading though. 5/3/17

Tales from the Weekend edited by David J. Howe, Telos, 2017, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-84583-120-2 

This is a rather slim collection of original horror stories by Paul Lewis, Freda Warrington, Simon Morden, Darren Shan, and others. The subject matter is frequently traditional – vampires, zombies, and werewolves – although the treatment varies quite a bit. There is even some humor. They tend to be weird rather than horror, if that distinction means anything to you. I liked all but one and the Warrington and Morden tales were my favorites. The title left me a little puzzled. 4/30/17

Small Ghosts by Paul Lewis, Telos, 2017, $12.99, ISBN 978-1-84583-952-9

This is a pleasant little supernatural novella about a man estranged from his family, who nevertheless decides to lend support when his grandfather, a retired police detective, appears to be on the brink of death. He stays at the dying man’s house where he thinks he sees a child hiding from him. This leads him to investigate some paperwork about an old, unsolved case involving a series of child murders. In due course, this will result in a startling revelation, although not the one most readers are likely to anticipate. The story is low key and only mildly suspenseful, but it isn’t meant to be. The supernatural element is necessary to give form to the investigation and eventual solution. It provides an enjoyable hour of reading. 4/27/17

Cthulhu and Other Monsters by Sam Stone, Telos, 2017, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-84583-122-6  

The first half of this collection supposedly consists of Lovecraftian Mythos stories, but sometimes the connection is so tenuous that I couldn’t find it. Tentacled monsters are not confined to Lovecraft. The second half makes no such pretense. Some of the stories are pretty good – particularly the steampunkish ones – but many seem hastily written. The endings are sometimes disappointing and there are occasional glaring plot problems. Stone’s prose is very clear and readable and she sets up her situations well most of the time, but sometimes falters in the closing pages. It would also help if she thought through the details, which are sometimes startling ill informed. 4/27/17

Brimstone by Cherie Priest, Ace, 2017, $16, ISBN 978-1-101-99073-5  

A man who used a flamethrower during World War I is troubled by a plague of small, inexplicable fires in his vicinity years later. A woman who has decided to cultivate her clairvoyant powers in a community of like minded people has dreams about the man. Their two worlds inevitably will collide. This author appeals to me most when she is writing about the supernatural despite her success with a steampunk series from another publisher. The atmosphere in this one is quietly mysterious, and my only criticism is that it took too long before the pace started to quicken. 4/21/17

Here After by Sean Costello, Your Scrivener, 2008

A man whose young son dies of leukemia attempts suicide, then slowly recovers. He begins to have dreams in which his son returns and draws his attention to two young boys who have gone missing. He begins to see connections between them and eventually tracks down the people responsible for their abductions, in time to save the life of one of them. Low key supernatural story with the horror coming from the human rather than the superhuman characters. A bit slow but otherwise well written. 4/15/17

Captain Quad by Sean Costello, Pocket, 1991 

 Peter is a high school graduate with a promising future that is cut short when he has a motorcycle accident that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down. He cuts off ties with others except for his brother and becomes increasingly bitter. But then he discovers that he can leave his body and spy on others, even possess them briefly and direct their actions. And now he wants revenge for deeds both real and imaginary, and there may be no one who can stop him. There are some minor plot problems with this one, but its biggest flaw is that it is quite long and not a great deal happens for the first half. This was Costello’s last horror novel until 2008. 4/10/17

The Cartoonist by Sean Costello, Pocket, 1990 

Three men cover up the accidental death of a child in an automobile accident in order to protect their reputations. Years later, the driver is working at a psychiatric hospital where an elderly man with dementia has started drawing remarkably detailed sketches. The sketches, however, are visions of the future in which the three men are all in danger of their lives. Not a very original plot and the protagonist is not at all a nice person, but the story progresses steadily and with some creepy events until he realizes what is going on and tries to stop it. Costello was an entertaining writer who wrote only one more novel before the horror boom collapsed, after which he produced mostly mundane thrillers. 4/8/17

The Red Room and Other Tales by Bruno Carlos Santos, Room 13, 2016, $9.95, ISBN 978-1539827658

The author of this slim collection of stories is from Brazil. There are five short stories, but "The Bones Goddess" makes up half the book. The plots are more likely to involve cosmic forces than traditional horrors, and in fact the horror element is mostly muted. The prose is generally all right, but it feels like elements are missing, particularly physical descriptions, which are sketchy at best. The dialogue, however, is often awkward. I should remark on the production qualities, however. The typeface is much too small and there is so much white space on the pages that it feels like an outline rather than a series of stories. There are also no page numbers.

Eden’s Eyes by Sean Costello, Pocket, 1989 

This was a somewhat predictable but entertaining horror novel published just before the genre collapsed. Eden Crowell is brain dead, so his father authorized organ transplants. One of the recipients is a blind woman who receives his eyes. But the mother is insane and a Satanist and she digs up her son’s body and performs rituals to restore him to life. Then the various recipients of his organs begin to die, literally torn apart, and the formerly blind woman sees each murder during her dreams. And she is likely to be next. 4/3/17

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