Sokoloff is very popular at the Berwyn Public Library and when I met Sokoloff at the Sisters in Crime booth at ALA annual she was kind enough to have her agent send me a copy of The Unseen.
Here's the realistically spooky plot: In the 1960s, researchers and students from the Duke University Parapsychology Lab went to study poltergeists in a haunted house. No one returned unscathed. Today, Professor Laurel MacDonald and three others return to the haunted home in the hopes of getting some answers, but are they prepared for what they will find? Are you?
Because the Parapsychology Lab was actually a real part of Duke University, this novel is even freakier. Once they get to the house, I dare you to stop reading. Like all great horror novels, the conflict is resolved, but the ghosts are not even close to being vanquished. Sokoloff's monsters are never seen, but the havoc their wreck is felt by all.
Readalikes: Another new horror book with a similar plot is The House of Lost Souls by F. G. Cottam. I would also suggest The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan, anything by Sarah Langan, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and these nonfiction books that mention Duke's Parapsychology Lab and zener cards. Sokoloff has a nice bibliography, as well as a list of what is true and what is fiction, at the end of the novel.
The reality TV slant in this novel is genius! The contestants are on an uninhabited island and a cyclone is approaching. All but three crew members are evacuated and the contestants are left alone to ride out the storm. That is when the horrors begin. This is a bloody book, but Keene's ability to add humor and his well enough described band of characters makes this novel a good choice for a wide audience. As a warning I should say there are a few brutal rape scenes, but they are necessary to the plot. And even though many, many people die and are torn limb from limb (literally), our main characters make it out alive and live happily ever after. Although, I dare you not to be rooting for the monsters to get a certain Welsh contestant.
Readalikes: Keene is one of the best and most reliable paperback horror writers today. Castaways was written as a tribute to Richard Laymon, so he is a great place to begin readalike suggestions. Although a bit darker, The Ruins by Scott Smith is also very similar to Castaways. Novels by Gary Braunbeck, Robert Dunbar, and Jonathan Maberry's Pine Deep Trilogy are also good suggestions here.
As cool as that sounds, the main key discovered in this installment is better; it literally opens your head. The Locke children open each other's heads, cram in homework and remove horrible memories. However, their unknown supernatural stalker is getting closer; in fact, he is in the form of what they think is their best friend. Terrible things continue to happen to the Locke family, and I can't stop turning the pages.
Rodriguez's drawings are both beautiful and unsettling, sometimes at the same time. Joe Hill has written another compelling story and we are even treated to a bit of foreshadowing as to what keys may be found next. This is a clever, original, and unsettling graphic novel. There is blood, violence, and heartbreaking murders here; but the story is compelling and the Locke kids themselves will keep even a more timid reader turning the pages.
Because this is a graphic novel, more squeamish readers should proceed with caution. Reading a horror novel is one thing, looking at the story in an illustrated form is quite another.
Readalikes: The graphic novels of Hill's father's Dark Tower books make for a good suggestion here. Also anything by Neil Gaiman from Sandman to The Graveyard Book (and everything in between) would work for fans of the Lock and Key Series. Also try Alan Moore and Frank Miller in graphic novels, and Bentley Little, Robert McCammon, or Peter Straub in novels.
Remember to check our all of my posts labeled horror to find more hair raising reads.