By Nicholas Wolff
July 2016. 416p. Gallery, paperback, $16 (9781501102714); e-book (9781501102721). First published September 1, 2016 (Booklist Online).
Nat Thayer has lived in the same Massachusetts town for generations. Now a local psychiatrist, Nat is approached by another long time resident whose sons were lost to terrible accidents and whose last remaining child, a daughter, is convinced that she is dead. Meanwhile, Nat’s best friend John, a cop and also a native son, is investigating the brutal murder of a young woman from the local college. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the two cases are connected and that many of the area’s families may be victims of an evil force, one that has been stalking them for centuries. Nat and John need to solve the case and break the curse in time to save themselves, their loved ones, and the entire town. This atmospheric story reads like a traditional suspense novel but with the added bonuses of historical and horror elements. With shifting points of view, a well developed cast of characters, and the inclusion of historical documents, this is a well paced, intricately plotted, and satisfyingly unsettling read. And it is important to note that while the name Wolff might be new to you, the true author is surely not since Wolff is the pseudonym for a yet to be named New York Times bestselling author. The mysteries are piling up with this sure bet crowd pleaser; don’t be left out! A great choice to pair with Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Hex [Reviewed in the April 1, 2016 issue], or suggest to your fans of Dean Koontz and F. Paul Wilson.
Further Comments: I am dying to know who Wolff really is because as the ARC notes, "Wolff is the pseudonym for a New York Times Best Selling Author who lives in NJ.” For the record I am making my official guess here-- Harlan Coben! My reasons are three fold. One, the story is written like a Coben story. Two, he lives in NJ. And three, the author throws in random, unnecessary to the plot, tidbits about Amherst College. They are anecdotes and stories that alumni often bring up. Both Coben and myself are alumni of Amherst College.
I could be way off here, but that’s my guess and I am making it public. Read it and let me know what you think.
Three Words That Describe This Book: atmospheric, historical aspects, compelling
Readalikes: I give plenty in the review above, but I did want to point out Hex specifically. I have read Hex and I included it in my upcoming Library Journal Horror debuts column which will be in the October 1st issue. Here is a sneak peek:
...the residents of Black Springs, NY have been up against a witch that has stalked their town since the1600s, in Hex the debut novel by Dutch horror author Thomas Olde Heuvelt, finally published in English this year. Think Under the Dome on steroids. Over the years the town leaders have sewn up the witch’s eyes and mouth to lessen the curse and worked with the government to seal off the town as much as possible. But this curse is so strong that once you move into Black Springs, you can never leave, well you can try, but after a few days you will kill yourself and others. Tentative peace has ruled since the mid-20th Century, but now a group of teens, armed with the bravado of youth and new technology think they can break the curse and free themselves. Except, they have no idea what they are really up against. Heuvelt made some edits to the story for it’s American release, including a change to the setting and ending [which is phenomenally chilling]. Give this tense, tightly plotted, and frightening tale to teens and adults who love the Blair Witch movie.
What the #@&% Is That: The Saga Anthology of the Monstrous and the MacabreEdited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen
Sept. 2016. 368p. Saga, hardcover, $26.99 (9781481434997). First published September 1, 2016 (Booklist).
When a regular person sees a funny Internet meme, they forward it on to their friends and colleagues through social media, but when two award winning speculative fiction editors stumble upon a Lovecraft inspired one that used artwork by legendary Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, this amazing collection is the result. Bestselling authors like Seanan McGuire, Scott Sigler, Jonathan Maberry, Grady Hendrix and more were asked to contribute a story about a monster with the only catch that at some point in their tale, a character had to exclaim, “ What the #@&% Is That!” With twenty stories, ranging from hilarious to truly terrifying, this is a great option to hand to patrons. Have them read their favorite authors first and then skip around to try someone new. It is also fun to predict who and when the title will be used in each story, and what word will be substituted for the symbols (which if you read the introduction, you learn is called a grawlix). In particular, Laird Barron’s story which opens the collection not only showcases his talent to a more mainstream audience, but also perfectly sets the tone for what is to come throughout the volume. A great choice for those who enjoyed the popular collection Rogues edited by George RR Martin and Gardner R Dozios.
Three Words That Describe This Book: stories, weird fiction. fun
Readalikes: While I give a specific collection readalike in above, Rogues, that is more because they both have huge, best selling authors, writing sold, compelling, and fun stories. You could also use the authors in the collection as a suggestion option.
But, I did not have room in the limited word count of the review to mention the HUGE trend right now in Lovecraft inspired reads. I did however, do a book talk on that topic this past June for the Massachusetts Library System and they now have that audio with a slide show up and ready for your viewing. Click here to listen to me provide 5 Lovecraftian readalikes that would work for this collection.
And make sure you know that Lovecraft is everywhere these days, so keep all of these books in mind as readalikes for those looking for more Lovecraftian works regardless of genre.