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

Last Update 12/30/19

Brother Blood Sister Death by Bill Ransom, Wordfire, 2020, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-68057-019-9

Diana and Daniel are twins, but they are also vampires. Although Daniel tries to be circumspect and only kills when necessary, Diana has apparently developed a liking for violence and death, and her excesses put them both at risk. Some humans wander into their lives and things become increasingly complex. The plot, however, is less interesting than the interactions among the four major characters, particularly - obviously - the two vampires, who mix traditional and untraditional elements in their nature. More adventure, if anything, than actual horror, but surprisingly intense. 12/30/19

The Reckoning by Carsten Stroud, Vintage, 2015 

Final book in the Niceville trilogy. The evil force that lives under the ground, inside mirrors, and within the waters of a lake is more active than ever, possessing people and causing them to commit multiple ghastly murders. The revenant of a bank robber who died in the middle volume reappears and interacts with the living. The ancient spirit of evil, the Nothing, that lives in the lake is about to have its perhaps final battle with the souls of the dead who have taken refuge in a world of mirrors while waiting for the time to strike back. The various story lines all get resolved. 12/7/19

The Homecoming by Carsten Stroud, Knopf, 2013

Middle volume in a trilogy. The town of Niceville exists in the shadow of an old family feud that allows the dead to influence the living. Some of the spirits use mirrors to move around while another, darker force lives in a "bottomless" pool of water that everyone has avoided for generations. Throw in some bank robbers, a man selling secrets to the Chinese, a young boy possessed, and a variety of other characters. The suspense ratchets up quite a bit and some of the mysteries from the first book are at least partially explained. Quite good but with a couple of eyebrow raising moments. The worst is when the police find a body that has been rotting in the woods for six months, and supposedly can narrow down the time of death to within a few hours. Nope. Not possible. 11/25/19

Niceville by Carsten Stroud, Vintage, 2012 

Niceville is a Southern town with a strong but hidden supernatural presence. Disappearances there are the highest in the country. A young boy literally disappears between two frames of a surveillance camera and returns in a sealed mausoleum in a catatonic state. One of the local policemen is head of a gang of bank robbers. Another resident uses his computer skills to reveal the secrets of other people. A security specialist is stealing high tech to sell to foreign powers. Another local police officer is a secret vigilante.  Ghosts, curses, family feuds, murder, and other mayhem abound. This is the first volume of a trilogy so a lot of the story lines do not get resolved yet. 11/20/19

Gwendy's Magic Feather by Richard Chizmar, CD, 2019, $20, ISBN 978-1-58767-731-1

Sequel to Gwendy's Button Box, which was a collaboration with Stephen King. In that first book, Gwendy used a magical artifact that she feared as much as depended upon, and she was glad to surrender it to its presumably proper keeper. But things change after twenty years. Two young girls have disappeared back in Maine and while Gwendy is older and settled in her new life hundreds of miles away, she cannot escape what appears to be her destiny. The artifact is back and while it offers gifts of a sort, it requires a kind of payment that is not always agreeable. So Gwendy sets off to visit here home town and discover whether the box has appeared to help her rescue the missing girls, or whether there is something even darker involved. This was good enough that I was fifty pages in before I realized it was in present tense, which I loathe. A creditable sequel to its predecessor and fairly good as a standalone. 11/12/19

Dr. Mabuse by Norbert Jacques, Bruin Asylum, 2015 (originally published in 1921) 

I was a bit disappointed when I finally read this. The opening chapters are pretty good as Mabuse uses various disguises and his telepathic hypnotism to lure rich men into playing cards, badly. He also has lots of minions, but when the story expands to incorporate his international crime ring, it becomes unfocused and occasionally even confusing. His arch nemesis, Wenk, doesn’t have much of a personality. Mabuse is a fascinating character, but not enough to support an entire novel without more substantial supporting characters. 11/9/19

Chokehold by David Moody, St Martins, 2019, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-250-22951-9

This appears to be the third book in a trilogy that is a sequel to another trilogy about people beginning to change into more violent creatures, essentially zombies, though with some rationalization. I've never even seen a copy of any of these. The second trilogy adds a nuclear holocaust, so we have pockets of unchanged survivors struggling against those related problems and also dealing with the possibility that some of them might change into haters, the author's term for those who have been changed. The haters aren't mindless, however, and two groups square off in a war to the finish. I might have liked this better if it hadn't been written in present tense. Ends with a mild cliffhanger so there are more to come. Reads more like military adventure than horror.11/1/19

A Book of Bones by John Connolly, Emily Bestler, 2019

The latest Charley Parker novel is, I believe, the longest yet. The evil and immortal killer Quayle is still searching for the missing pages of an ancient book which, when reassembled, he believes will bring about the end of the world. He is assisted by an odd looking woman named Mors who was wounded in the last book, but has made a full recovery. Parker, assisted unofficially by the FBI, finds clues to their trail in Arizona, Mexico, the Netherlands, and London. The pace is slower than usual in this series, but very methodical, and the violence is more off stage than usual. There are ritual killings, a falling out among serial killers, the literal death of a kind of god, and quite a bit of the overt supernatural. Super novel. 10/27/19

The Bat Woman by Cromwell Gibbons, Bruin Asylum, 2017 (originally published in 1938) 

This is a very peculiar book which was apparently originally an outline for a Universal horror movie, although the story is so slow moving and confused that I cannot imagine it on the screen. A deformed man turns out to be a twisted genius and he turns a supposedly dead woman into a kind of rationalized vampire. Her husband and others attempt to rescue her. Turgid, confusing, and dense. 10/14/19

Dark Cities: Dark Tales by Michael McCarty, 2019, $14

This is a collection of seven stories, only two of which have been previously published. They include collaborations with Joe McKinney, Mark McLaughlin, and C.L. Sherwood. They are all horror stories, although there is a strong recurring flavor of rather dark humor spread throughout the collection. Here we have zombies, vampires, giant spiders, trolls, demons, aliens, and more. "Terror of Bristol Plains," a kind of prequel to Plan 9 from Outer Space, was my favorite. These are meant to be fun rather than atmospheric, with fast moving plots, outrageous story elements, and punchy endings. They poke fun at the genre while also honoring its traditions. 10/12/19

Nemesis by Scott and Denise Ciencin, Simon, 2004 

An Angel novel. A living shadow from another reality begins killing people. Fred picks up an old friendship only to have her friend murdered. Angel encounters a secret band of wizards who try to maintain the walls between worlds, but there is a traitor among them and even the loyal ones seems to have conflicting loyalties and a rather strange sense of justice. Fred gets kidnapped and the evil law firm, Wolfram and Hart, appears to be behind it. But fear not, Angel will figure it all out by the end. 10/1/19