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

Last Update 4/16/12

The Faceless by Simon Bestwick, Solaris, 2012, $8.99, ISBN 978-1-907992-75-9

I haven't read this author's first novel but I've enjoyed some of his short fiction. Contrary to my usual preferences in horror writers, I think his novel is better than his shorter stuff, primarily because he does an excellent job in building atmosphere here where there was less room for it elsewhere. A series of abductions, particularly children, leads a group of people to investigate a shady part of London where they fear a child of pedophiles is at work. But a local psychic suspects that the truth is much stranger and more dangerous than simply a group of perverts. Apart and together they track down the history of a creepy hospital and the aftermath of violence and tragedy from the past, reflected on the present. This is a highly atmospheric and continuously creepy story, and very well written. I would put a star next to this author's name and watch for what he does next. 4/16/12

Nocturnal by Scott Sigler, Crown, 2012, $26, ISBN 978-0-307-40634-7 

Siglerís novels, including this one, appear to all have originally been podcasts, successful enough to merit hardcover publication after the fact. The two previous books Iíve read by him have varied considerably in quality. This one seems more competently composed than either of them and it has a familiar though usually pleasing set of stereotypes including the bantering cop duo, the dumb Mafia bigwig, and the poor abused boy, along with a series of mysterious murders. Parts of it work pretty well. Parts donít. The point of view changes between Clauser and his partner are frequent and confusing even when theyíre together, and the banter between them is so over the top that it got very irritating very quickly. There are clairvoyant dreams, mutilated bodies, and a secret race living out of sight of the rest of the world. Some of this is suspenseful, but the clunky parts bothered me increasingly as the book progressed. 4/15/12

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers, Morrow, 2012, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-123154-4 

Technically, I suppose, this is a Victorian vampire novel but it is so much more that it hardly seems accurate. The plot is in fact so complex Ė though easily followed when it is read Ė that I canít really summarize it here easily. The vampires overlap somewhat with ghosts, and one of them is John Polidori, author of an early vampire story. The characters include his distant relatives and both Christina and Dante Rossetti, as well as several completely fictional ones. One set includes a veterinarian and a former prostitute searching for their child, whom they believed died years earlier until they learn otherwise, and another involves a man who has renounced evil but whose companion is herself more than human. Thereís a cursed, or perhaps possessed statue, automatic writing, a bizarre dwarf, and other odd elements that all fit into the mosaic. The pacing is more deliberate than in some of Powers' novels but the sense of menace and suspense is intense. 4/14/12

Tales of the Weak & the Wounded by Gary McMahon, Dark Regions, 2012, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-937128-30-2

Silent Voices by Gary McMahon, Solaris, 2012, $8.99, ISBN 978-1-907992-79-7

A novel and a short story collection by one of the more interesting new British horror writers. The novel, Silent Voices, is a follow up to Concrete Grove from the same publisher. Although there is some overlap of characters, this one concentrates on three men who, as boys, disappeared for a weekend, the memory of which eludes them. Around them we are introduced to a series of odd, probably supernatural events which are not so much unsettling individually as they are as a web of mystery surrounding the main plot events. As with the previous novel, it is more about the characters and their psychology than in blood and gore and overt action, but that doesn't mean that the plot plods along. It's lively, intriguing, mystifying, and creepy.  The collection - of which almost half are original - is loosely organized with a frame but it's clearly not a novel. The stories vary quite widely in theme and subject matter but like the novel they are more likely to be subtle than obvious. My favorites were "Diving Deep" and "When the Dark Times Comes", both suggesting claustrophobia, but they were only marginally ahead of the others overall. I actually think I like his short fiction better than the novels, but then that's a tendency I find in general in horror fiction. 4/10/12

Siege by Rhiannon Frater, Tor, 2012, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3128-1

The zombie tide seems to have abated somewhat in books and movies but not in this series, of which this is the third. The survivors whose adventures we follow have created a fortified community to keep the zombies and other bad guys out, and they are even resuming something like a normal life, with all of the conflicts and problems that existed before the zombies arrived. There are multiple conflicts this time including an attempt by a military organization to assert control and the difficulties of communicating with another isolated community in an effort to form a permanent association. A lot of this is pretty standard zombie fare, and the shopping mall survivors reminded me of Dawn of the Dead, intentionally. If you haven't overdosed on shambling corpses, this series is about as well written of its type as they come. 4/9/12

The Harmony Society by Tim Waggoner, Dark Regions, 2012, $18.95, ISBN 978-1-937128-29-6

This was originally published by Prime back in 2003, which I think makes this Waggoner's first published novel. The protagonist is a college professor who has increasingly disturbing encounters with a secretive organization that has genuine occult connections - though it is apparently not a reference to the real Harmony Society, a religious group which died out in part because of their policy of celibacy. There's insanity and dark religious references and lots of mystery as our hero is driven almost to suicide by the pressures around him. Although not as polished as his more recent books, this one has considerable emotional power and the increasingly beleaguered protagonist is not as stereotyped as are many similar characters in horror and suspense. 4/2/12

The Medusa Amulet by Robert Masello, Bantam, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-553-59320-4

You could think of this thriller (I missed last year's hardcover edition) as The Da Vinci Code with supernatural elements. The protagonist is a researcher hired by a mysterious woman to search for a lost amulet created by Benvenuto Cellini, a quest which has cost her previous agent his life at the hands of an equally mysterious man. The woman, we learn early, is the immortal mistress of Cellini who used the amulet to acquire eternal life, which she considers a curse rather than a blessing. I believe this is Masello's longest novel - and I've read several of his earlier books and liked them to varying degrees - but I think that's a bit of a problem this time because it's a little too long for the story. There were several times when I wanted him to pick up the pace. Entertaining overall but I prefer thrillers that make me reluctant to set them aside until I reach the end. 3/30/12

Nice Girls Don't Bite Their Neighbors by Molly Harper, Pocket, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-4181-3

Fourth in a series of lightweight vampire romances, the earlier titles of which I have never seen. The protagonist is a seasoned but pleasant vampire woman who finds herself responsible for watching over a newly converted one who might be prone to excesses, which interferes with her current plans to marry her boyfriend. There's also a troublesome ghost with a grudge against the undead and a nasty villain of sorts waiting in the wings. This is all pretty low key, somewhat in the style of MaryJanice Davidson but not quite as funny. There are some cute parts and the writing isn't bad but I was looking for something more substantial to sink my teeth into. 3/22/12

Commedia Della Morte by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Tor, 2012, $29.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3104-5

It goes without saying that a St Germain vampire novel is going to be well written and historically evocative, in this case taking place during the French Revolution. Newly converted vampire Madelaine has been imprisoned by the authorities and is scheduled to be executed so St Germain has to find a way to free her in an adventure that reminded me slightly of Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche. Our hero falters a bit this time and gets involved in a peripheral love affair that eventually lands him in hot water. Some of the recent novels in this series have been mildly disappointing, probably because some of the themes recur a lot, but this is on the up side of the series, a well constructed and rather suspenseful entry. It also seems that the entries from this approximate era are generally better than the rest of the series. 3/21/12

Black Static issues 26 & 27, 2012, £3.95 each

This is a British horror magazine of which I had heard, although these are the first two issues I've ever seen. My loss. They are both large format and nicely done with color interiors and lots of photos and artwork to break up the text. There are columns of reviews and other subjects and news notes as well as short stories. The fiction is the heart of the magazine, obviously, and there are very good stories here by Gary McMahon and Simon Bestwick, among others, and I also enjoyed the Christopher Fowler column. This is a very good find and worth the time to track down copies, particularly since it varies noticeably from the format and contents of Weird Tales or Cemetery Dance and hence there is no real equivalent in the US.

Wide Open by Deborah Coates, Tor, 2012, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2898-4

The setting for this low key but very effective novel of the supernatural is a small midwestern town where the protagonist, Hallie Michaels, has just returned on leave from a tour in Afghanistan. Almost immediately she encounters the ghost of her dead sister, supposedly a suicide, but Michaels believes otherwise and she wants to find out the truth. This is a familiar opening and much of the plot also follows that pattern, with everyone except one man convinced that she is simply reacting to the stress of her time in Afghanistan plus the shock of her sister's death. But there are other ghosts in town, ghosts of other women who disappeared periodically, and the reader knows even before the protagonist that there is a connection here. Nice unraveling of the mystery, and the town and its people really come to life. I think this is a first novel and it's an extremely accomplished one. 3/13/12

77 Shadow Street by Dean R. Koontz, Bantam, 2011, $28, ISBN 978-0-553-80771-4

This quasi-supernatural thriller starts off with a bang, the weird events happening at the posh apartment building of the title starting in the first few pages. Most of what follows is the experiences of various staff and residents as they deal with shifts in time, misshapen creatures that might once have been human and which can pass through solid objects, or not. The phenomenon recurs at this location every thirty eight years and we even have brief interludes in which the evil motivating force speaks directly to us, glorying in its omnipotence - although it doesn't seem to have much power outside the very restricted area. I think there was a tactical error in the plot of this one because we never see the characters except under stress and while some of them seem interesting, we never really get to know much about them. And naturally they come together - most of them anyway - in order to survive. A few good moments but this one never really pulled me into the story. 3/11/12

Nightfall by Stephen Leather, 47 North, 2012, $14.95, ISBN 9781612182292 

This is an imprint of Amazon Publishing and Leather is a British thriller writer who moves into supernatural fiction with this, the first in a series about Jack Nightingale. Heís an ex-police negotiator who discovers that he was adopted when his biological father, a Satanist, commits suicide and leaves him a substantial though complicated estate. He also tells Jack that his soul was sold at birth and that he will be going to Hell in just over a week. Needless to say, Jack doesnít like this idea and while initially skeptical, he becomes increasingly troubled when he keeps seeing and hearing this same sentiment spoken by casual acquaintances or written in Chinese fortune cookies. And then people start dying around him, mostly suicides, but why? I should say here that I have a real problem with this premise. I can accept that people can sell their souls to the devil in a story, but I donít buy the idea that one can sell someone elseís soul, since it is not their property in the first place. This would seem to me inconsistent with the whole God vs Satan concept. Given that cavil, the story is well told and fast moving as Jack eventually has to figure out how to avert his fate. I was reminded slightly of John Connolly, although Leather uses a much leaner prose style. Disappointing ending. 3/10/12

The Year of Eating Dangerously by K. Bennett, Pinnacle, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7860-2625-8

This is ostensibly a zombie novel, but it's really more urban fantasy than anything else. The protagonist is a zombie in fact, as well as a lawyer whose latest client is a young boy who insists his mother is going to kill him. There are more subplots as well, including some that are likely to carry over into sequels including her relationship with a sexy police detective, her father's penchant for hunting down zombies, the possibility that her secret life will be revealed, and the threat of a mob of demons and other supernatural creatures. The story moves quickly but it's rather crowded with story lines and felt rather unfocused at times. Not badly written but a bit tentative, and the mix of humor and mystery doesn't always work. 2/28/12

The Devil Draws Two by David B. Riley, Timescape, 2012, $19.95, ISBN 9781469965581

Weird westerns seem to be enjoying a slight upsurge. This one is an omnibus collection of two short novels and a few shorter pieces about Miles O'Malley, a lawman equipped to deal with the unusual, everything from ghosts, monsters, and aliens to a resurrected Mayan deity. By its nature, the story is episodic although it's patched together into an overall narrative. The stories are quite imaginative and there are only a few rough spots in the prose, and some of the adventures are at least mildly tongue in cheek. This is really more of an occult adventure story than horror, in tone at least, and there's even a touch of science fiction. If you wish that Max Brand and Luke Short had written weird fiction - actually Brand did write some -  then this is a book for you. 2/23/12

The Nemesis of Night by Adam Niswander, Hippocampus, 2011, $20, ISBN 978-0-9846386-4-2

I believe this is the fourth in Niswander's series about shamans in the American southwest. Although not specifically part of the Cthulhu Mythos, they often have much of the same feel about cosmic forces and the insignificance of humanity. In this case, there's a deserted community created by Native American witches which is the seat of supernatural power that is extending its influence to the outside world. The escape of three panthers from a city zoo coincides with a series of mysterious deaths and some modern day shamans must muster their powers to prevent a more widespread tragedy. The plot isn't bad at all, but I had occasional problems with the prose. The dialogue in particular does not feel like normal speech patterns. 2/19/12

Almost Everything by Tate Hallaway, NAL, 2012, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-451-23566-4

Final volume in the Vampire Princess series, which as you can guess is a teenaged vampire romance sequence. It's not a Stephenie Meyer clone though. It has a much more complicated and interesting vampire/witch mythos - the protagonist is a crossbreed - and the characters are far more lively - no pun intended - and interesting. She's caught between three male admirers, both alive and undead, as well as a potential war between the two sides. Hallaway - who also writes as Lyda Morehouse - winds everything up neatly and excitingly. Not all teenage vampire romance is treacly. 2/11/12

Carnacki Heaven and Hell by William Meikle, Dark Regions, 2011, $18.95, ISBN 978-1-937128-27-2

A couple of years back I reread the works of William Hope Hodgson and found his stories of Carnacki, an occult detective, to be among his better work. William Meikle has resurrected that character for this collection of stories in that tradition. There are ten stories here, all original to the book insofar as I could determine. They are rather similar in tone and even plot in most cases, but I marginally found "The Larkhill Barrow," "The Beast of Glamis," and "The Shoreditch Worm" to be the most entertaining. The author makes no attempt to modernize the language or setting. This version of Carnacki seems a bit more voluble than the one I remember, but horror stories of this type generally assume a more relaxed and intellectual air than most modern ones. It's a style of writing that I appreciate, and miss. 2/7/12

To Walk the Night by E.S. Moore, Kensington, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7582-6872-3

Another novel labeled as urban fantasy that is actually standard horror with a few tweaks, this one involving a good vampire who battles bad vampires. In this case it's a feisty female vampire, but the story is otherwise very much the same. There's not even a strong undercurrent of romance which is prevalent in so many of these series - and yes this is the first in a projected series. It's pretty dark in tone and plot elements and a bit convoluted, though not in a bad way. My only real complaint is that I never felt as though I understood the motivations of some of the characters, particularly the protagonist who feels compelled to protect humans from the bad undead critters. But why?  Presumably we will find out more in the volumes to come. 2/5/12

The Birthday Party of No Return! by R.L. Stine, Scholastic, 2012, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-545-28938-2

The Goosebumps books are really too short to be novels, but that's probably a good thing because the kind of fuzzy horror that is typical of them wouldn't work well at greater length. It doesn't always work well even in the short version. This isn't one of the best of them. Two young friends are competing for a free stint at a local camp but the competition turns ugly when dark magic intrudes and eventually they try - not very hard nor at all successfully - to kill one another. A pretty dull outing for Stine this time and the familiar backing away from anything really horrible happening. 2/5/12

Beautiful Hell by Jeffrey Thomas, Dark Regions, 2011, $16,95, ISBN 978-1-937128-17-3

Thomas continues his chronicles of Hell with this fascinating view of an underworld roiling with tensions, incipient rebellions, desperate power seekers, and even some demons who have decided that it might be time to switch sides. Enter God himself as a visitor who hopes to bring things to a conclusion, but who proves to be mortal himself within the confines of the nether realms. This isn't the straightforward narrative of, say, Black Easter by James Blish, or the parade of grotesque scenes in John Shirley's work on the subject, but rather a mix of explicit scenes and highly imaginative and almost symbolic ones. This is not for the squeamish or inattentive. 2/2/12

The Screaming Season by Nancy Holder, Razorbill, 2011, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-59514-333-4

This is the third in a series of young adult horror novels, the previous two of which I have never seen. The protagonist is a student at a private school who is periodically possessed by a spirit. When she wakes up strapped down in the infirmary, she wonders if she has done something horrible during a blackout. Eventually she joins forces with another recurring character who apparently was her opponent earlier on but who now becomes an unlikely ally as they try to find out what is going on at the school and who wants our protagonist neutralized. There's a great mystery in this one and Holder has always been skilled at building suspense. This had much the feel of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer adventure, not surprising since she wrote a lot of those as well. Entertaining for readers of all ages. 2/1/12

Blood of Eden by Tami Dane, Kensington, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7582-6709-2

Although this is billed as the first in a new urban fantasy series, it's really a horror novel. The protagonist is a feisty young woman who becomes an intern with the FBI, and is soon caught up in a dangerous investigation conducted by a division which specializes in what appear to be paranormal crimes. Although the prose is quite readable, I was immediately struck by the absurdity of a brand new intern being placed in such obvious danger and in such crucial situations. It just wouldn't happen that way. This could have been avoided quite easily by making her a more seasoned agent, so it's an avoidable error. The rest of the plot is all right although not a whole lot happens and I found my attention wandering on more than one occasion. This could have benefited from considerable tightening. 2/1/12

Eden by Tony Monchinski, Gallery, 2011, $15, ISBN 978-1-4516-4684-9

Werewolf Apocalypse by William D. Carl, Gallery, 2011, $15, ISBN 978-1-4516-4685-6

Both of these novels were previously published by Permuted Press, which specializes in zombies. The first novel is in fact about zombies, and it's the first in a series. The second is pretty much the same thing with werewolves and on a smaller scale. Monchinski posits the usual zombie hordes swarming everywhere except in this case an enclave where a comparative handful of unaffected people attempt to survive. There's a kind of murder mystery superimposed on the plot but it's more of a sideshow than anything else. The prose is occasionally clunky but not awful and if you enjoy zombie hordes, then this should scratch your itch. The second, which is somewhat better written, has only four survivors in Cincinnati, which has been hit with a plague of lycanthropy. Everyone else in the city turns into a murderous monster at night, but returns to normal during the day, at which point many are clearly insane. There's a more interesting story here as well, but it's still basically a zombie plague under a thin disguise. 1/28/12

Sherlock Holmes Revenant by William Meikle, Dark Regions, 20111, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-937128-24-1

Holmes and Watson are on another case, this one involving a mysterious illness which seems to specifically target members of the House of Lords. There's a hijacked gold shipment, the quest for immortality, Holmes framed for a crime he didn't commit, chases and escapes from London to Scotland and back, and of course Dr. Moriarty shows up in due course. Meikle does a good job of capturing the essence of the Holmes and Watson duo, although the action is more like the Robert Downey movies at times than the original Conan Doyle conception. There's a touch of the supernatural without it becoming the dominant theme. It's a nice blend of mystery and occult adventure and you don't find that particular flavor much any more.  1/25/12

London Macabre by Steven Savile, Dark Regions, 2012, $45, no ISBN listed

The murder of a prostitute doesn't seem like the catalyst for a supernatural apocalypse, but in a sense that's what happens in this ambitious novel.  The murderer is a member of a secret occult society which has now opened a gateway by means of which much more powerful supernatural forces can enter the world. Familiar objects and people take on new aspects and a not entirely secret war is underway for the future of both our world and perhaps Hell itself. Because Satan may be on the brink of escaping from confinement, and that could change everything. I'm a sucker for Victorian horror or mystery novels so this was definitely my cup of tea, although I thought the novel would have been more suspenseful if the mayhem had been a bit more restrained, particularly in the first half.  The best I've seen from this author. 1/18/12

Nocturnes by John Connolly, Atria, 2006 

This is a collection of mostly horror stories that includes two short novels, both of which are excellent, and a lot of short stories, all of which are quite good as well.  Connolly reminds me here at times of Stephen King, Algernon Blackwood, and even H.P. Lovecraft. There are creatures living under a burial mound, a man who can spread cancer with a touch, human sacrifices, revenge from beyond the grave, unorthodox vampires, and many other menaces.  One of the short novels involves Charlie Parker and itís probably the best story in the collection, in a very good collection. My only regret is that I have now read almost all of his books and will have to wait for him to write some more. 1/13/12

Hell Train by Christopher Fowler, Solaris, 2012, $8.99, ISBN 978-1-907992-44-5

I've enjoyed the previous novels by Christopher Fowler that I've read, but this one is something of a let down. Four living people board a cursed train in the midst of World War I, and each must endure a test of their particular lack of virtue, overcoming or being overcome by supernatural creatures. One of these failings is curiosity - and I've never heard that curiosity is a sin, the first problem I had with the set up. The tests themselves are, despite some minor variations, essentially the same whether the opponent is a creepy woman, a reanimated corpse, a serial killer, or whatever. The odds are clearly so stacked against the participants that their survival is going to be by chance, if they survive at all. Nor did I ever really feel that this was taking place on a train; the setting was just too sketchy. And finally, the whole thing is wrapped in a frame and may just be the screenplay an out of work writer is trying to sell to Hammer films, a frame that adds nothing at all to the story. Disappointing. 1/12/12

Nightingale Songs by Simon Strantzas, Dark Regions, 2011, 17.95, ISBN 978-1-937128-22-7

I had read one previous collection by this author and enjoyed it, so I was favorably disposed toward this new set. Nor was I disappointed. In fact, I think this is a decided step upward. Beneath the Surface tended toward Lovecraftian atmospheres and horrors, but this one is more varied and character driven, which is not to say it isn't filled with atmosphere and tension. As John Langan points out in his introduction, these stories are closer in tone and treatment to Robert Aickman, although still retaining a distinct flavor of their own. I thought the quality this time was more uniform as well and it is difficult to pick out favorites, although "Everything Floats" and "The Nightingale" are at this moment the most vivid in my memory.  A very fine collection. 1/12/12

The Burning Soul by John Connolly, Atria, 2011 

The latest Charlie Parker novel is as convoluted and rewarding as its predecessors. This time the case involves an abducted teenager, who turns out to have family ties to one side of a power struggle in the Boston crime syndicates. In the same town, however, is a man who was convicted of murdering another child when he was a boy, and whose secret is apparently known by someone who sends ominous pictures, perhaps the precursor to blackmail. Or is he being set up to take the fall for the missing girl?  And what secret is he hiding from even Parker, whom he has hired to clear up matters.  And who is sending messages claiming that the local police chief is a pedophile? Parker calls on his old friends, Louis and Angel, to help when it becomes clear that the situation requires more than a single head.  There are genuine ghosts as well, although they are almost peripheral to the plot. A bit of coincidental trivia. The book refers on several occasions to Whitey Bulger, a notorious fugitive whoíd been in hiding for several years. Bulger was finally captured shortly before the book was published. 1/11/12

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse, Putnam, 2009 

I have enjoyed two of Mosseís previous novels a great deal, but this much shorter one came and went without my ever having noticed it.  The story is set ten years after the end of World War I and its protagonist is a man who is still in mourning for his brother, who died during the conflict. In fact, I found him pretty contemptible, wallowing in self pity and assumed martyrdom. While traveling in France he has an automobile accident after which he thinks he hears mysterious voices. Then he takes refuge in a small village where things seem just slightly wrong. He has arrived on the night of an annual festival to remember the dead and is invited to attend the local feast. There he is told a sad story of a village driven into hiding in the local caves where they are trapped by the besiegers. He believes the story to refer to the Germans but it is actually the suppression of the Cathars and he has wandered into an alternate festival from the past. Back in the present the next day, he locates the cave and finds the bones of the long dead villagers inside. No surprises but very well told. 1/10/12

Fighting to Survive by Rhiannon Frater, Tor, 2011, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3127-4

Follow up to The First Days, in which a zombie plague spreads over the world. A few score human survivors have barricaded themselves in a small Texas town but are soon besieged by the walking dead. A major part of the novel consists of efforts to secure a hotel that has been infested and some of the best scenes are in this sequence. None of this is to be taken entirely seriously as a platoon of weird characters add their own peculiarities to an already peculiar situation. The problem with zombie novels is that for the most part they are confined to a very similar pattern and frankly this series has yet to step outside those boundaries. Although it's as well written as any of its competitors, except the Mira Grant series, it really does nothing to stand out from the shambling crowd of similar novels. 1/7/12

Hell's Doctor by Lee F. Jordan, Black Rose, 2011, $18.95, ISBN 9781612960180

This one is more of an occult adventure story than a horror novel, taking place primarily in Hell itself.  The cast of characters includes quite a few probable residents there including a good number of famous serial killers. Hell is, of course, not the same for everyone and the protagonist gets exposed to more than one environment in his quest to solve an enigmatic mystery. There's a lot of gratuitous gore, some strained humor, There's an overriding story but the structure is rather anecdotal. Some clever ideas, competent if sometimes rather flat prose, and a nice wrap up at the end. A nice contrast to some of the work of Edward Lee. 1/7/12

Black Light by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano, Mulholland, 2011, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-316-19671-0

In a way this is a kind of supernatural version of Harry Potter. The protagonist survived a supernatural attack that wiped out the rest of his family and now he makes a career of chasing down and expunging evil. But when he is asked to travel on a high speed train across a desert, along with a number of celebrities and politicians. His unique ability is to absorb evil spirits into himself before eliminating them, but there's going to be more than he can handle on this wild ride. I forced myself to read this - it's written in present tense - and sometimes managed to ignore the artificiality of it all.  If the point was to make the dangers more immediate, the authors failed completely on that count.  There's some originality in the concept, a few good scenes, but little real suspense.  1/5/12

The Lovers by John Connolly, Atria, 2009

This Charlie Parker novel moves firmly into the supernatural as Parker investigates an incident from his past when his father committed double murder and suicide for no apparent reason. He discovers the existence of two entities, the lovers, who move from one body to another whenever their host is killed.  Together they engage in hunts for targets whose purpose seems random, including Parkerís mother. Although they originally believed that Parker was dead, he was saved and hidden away and now they know who he is and theyíre after him again. Meanwhile, an inquisitive reporter/writer wants to produce a book about Parkerís exploits, for which intrusion he ends up dead. Things move quickly in this one and it doesnít feel as long as it actually is. One of his better novels.