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Mark Louis Baumgart (Michigan, USA)

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The Vanishing
The Vanishing
by Wendy Webb
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars "She just stood there, smiling . . . the smile of a killer very much enjoying the moment just before it strikes its prey.", 13 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Vanishing (Paperback)
We start off with a séance at the famed Havenwood in 1875 that is performed by the famous Seraphina, and it all will go very, very wrong, and from there we will jump to the present day when Julia Bishop, whose husband has just suicided in disgrace because of investment fraud. About to lose her home she is approached by Adrian Sinclair who needs a companion for his famous mother, the long thought dead ex-writer Amoris Sinclair. Sinclair was considered a modern master of the macabre, who is considered the modern Edgar Allen Poe, and who was, coincidently, an influence on Julia back when she was a young writer.

However, Julia gave up her writing career some time ago when she had married Jeremy. Now the creditors, and the victims of her husband's scams, are coming for her, and all that she has, and Adrian is now giving her the chance to disappear just as Adrian's mother mysteriously did. Even though Julia knows nothing about the Sinclairs, or how this opportunity is going to work out, she's desperate enough to jump at this chance to start anew. And with that, she leaves her old identity behind, lock, stock, and barrel.

From the beginning this novel moves into the realm of the surreal. Especially when Julia gets to Havenwood as this deepens when Julia meets it's matriarch, and during the course of the same day she hears children playing. This continues as Amoris tells the strange story of the founder of Havenwood, Andrew McCullough, his rise to be influential and rich, and his then strange and mysterious fate. As things progresses, she realizes that the estate is isolated, and she is not to use the phone, that would give away her location, and that the help doesn't approve of her reading the newspaper. Although, when she does so, Julia finds that somebody had burned her previous house to the ground, leaving her with no place to go even if she wanted to leave.

Havenwood is itself a surrealistic dreamscape as Julia hears strange voices just drifting off out-of-ear range, Havenwood has a labyrinth of corridors and hallways, some locked up and sealed, there is an endless library filled with thousands of volumes, the estate isolation, and it seems to exist almost out-of-time, as there as most modern technology doesn't seem to exist in Havenwood. There is even a shuttered room right out of Dickens' "Great Expectations" in which a great party has been hastily abandoned.

Then she meets a fourth generation McCullough, who's Havenwood's vet and groomsman, and as circumstances continue, the reason for Julia's being at Havenwood becomes more and more murky and mysterious, and she starts to wonder what the reason is for her to really be at Havenwood.

Webb is a practitioner of the new romantic Gothicism, as Webb tries hard to, and does a great job of, recreating the gothic suspense novels of yesteryear. It's all here; from the dotty and eccentric matriarch, the sturdy romantic, interest, the naive heroine, the estate's isolation, the eerie comings and goings of the estates staff and occupants, and the possible supernaturalism. Like all of your classic gothic romantic suspense novels, by the novel's end Julia will be second-guessing both her sanity, and her security, as there will be dark secrets revealed, mysteries to be unraveled, her faith in herself to be tested, and Julia will have to undergo a baptism by fire to become a whole person again.

Sure some of the things that will be revealed will be a stretch to swallow, but that's all part of the genre. What does become a little annoying is that despite her age, she must be in her mid-thirties, Julia constantly acts like a naïve and innocent sixteen-year-old. Although, as the novel progresses, there may even be a reason for that, as Webb is very good at what she does.

True the melodrama is a little over-the-top, with arson, stalking, ghostly visitations, warnings from beyond the grave, haunts, time slippages, romance, clandestine & shadowy motives, secret-histories, etc., but Webb does it all so well, that it never overwhelms, and the reader becomes thoroughly entranced.

I don't know how this novel stands up to Webb's previous novels, but I loved this bit of retro fiction, which shows just how inept some of the Harlequin writers are at trying to recreate fiction like this. I certainly will continue to read even more of Webb's novels in the future as I may have discovered a new favorite author.

As somebody who loves good ghost stories, this is a novel that fans of classic novels like "The Haunting Of Hill House", "A Stir Of Echoes", or "The Uninvited" will probably love. What a great movie this would make.

I'm a bit too literal minded, so I'm not sure about what the last chapter was all about, but, I'm going to chalk it all up to obtrusiveness on my part.


Hangman's Curse (Veritas Project)
Hangman's Curse (Veritas Project)
by Frank Peretti
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars "They dropped from the ceiling on web lines like storm troopers and flowed down the walls like thin black lava.", 12 Mar. 2015
We start off with goth teen Ian Snyder supposedly scaring his enemies into comas. So, a local official notifies the mysterious Mr. Morgan, the man who is in charge of the Veritas Project, an organization which investigates X-Filesish occurrences, however, the Veritas group is in the middle of an inanely written, and dialogued, drug deal, which also shows the members of this group to be also fairly incompetent.

As the novel progresses, it turns out that the Veritas Project is a religious organization consisting of Nate and Sarah Springfield, and their twins Elijah and Elisha, and that they only directly answer to the president (?!?).

Yeah, I didn't buy it for a second, but, there you go. Anyway, the Springfields end up Baker High School to investigate what seems a plague of ghostly attacks on the student body. While at first it seems that the ghost of ex-student Abel Frye may be responsible, soon other things will be dragged into the plot. The fact that this is a Christian orientated thriller, soon enough witchcraft, via the caricatured goth sub-culture, will be dragged into, and then slandered, in "Hangman's Curse". However, even that sub-plot will fall by the wayside by this meandering novel's end.

The red herrings will continue to rain down on the audience, and as the novel progresses we will get two versions of the Bel Fry legend, both polar opposites of each other. We also learn that there are two Baker High Schools, one for the elite, the jocks, and the privileged, in which the authorities turn a blind eye to all of their escapades, and the other Baker High School, the one for everybody else. All very well and good, but there is nothing new in this, and nothing is really done with it either.

Anyway, the problems that I had with this novel are plenty. I got the feeling that the publisher's felt that the audience was just too stupid to keep their minds on what was going on in this book, so we get plenty of teaser boxes in which there are excerpts of sentences and paragraph fragments. I suppose that these teaser boxes are meant to grab the audience's attention, but which, unfortunately, seem to constantly do nothing but distract the reader's attention, and to fill up space.

As an author Frank Peretti constantly gives the feeling that he is talking down to his audience. A good example of this is this sentence: "Ms. Wyrthen, Nate, Sarah, Mr. Maxwell, and Officer Carrillo started down the hall, Ms. Wyrthen's heels pock-pocking and Mr. Maxwell's nails click-clicking on the floor." Really, this is just amateur stuff for a writer.

Another problem that I have is that we are never given an age of the twins. Do they ever go to school? Have they graduated? Are they home schooled? If so, why don't we ever see this happening? If this is a Christian oriented book how come nobody ever reads the Bible? And for all intents and purposes, virtually all of the characterizations are fairly shallow.

There is a strawman argument dealing with evolution and morality, with Elijah and Elisha coming across as smug smart alecks who think that they're smarter than they really are, and that any and all that disagree with them are portrayed as being foolish. At the same time these twits, uh, twins, exude a sense of Goody-Two-Shoeism as we are often constantly hammered that non-Christian supernaturalism and occultism is just evil. And, as I have previously mentioned, Witchcraft is evil, and those that practice it are just misguided. Fine, but by the novel's end the shallow portrayal of the non-Wiccan witchcraft portrayed here is just window dressing existing for the sake of Christian distainment.

And it goes on as people, and the twins, will constantly do eye-rolling stupid things just to further the plot.

And while this book has eight glossy pages of stills from the movie adaptation, I have to admit to liking the fourteen pieces of artwork by Kevin Burke, any of which would have been better than the bland piece of photoshopping that is used for the cover.

The end result is that this novel almost seems like it was written as a serial in which Peretti seems to constantly reinvent the basic reasons why things are happening in the "Hangman's Curse". I really don't think Peretti even knew what he wanted to do with this novel other than coast on his hard-earned reputation. This is my first Peretti novel and it will probably be my last, as while Peretti has some talent; there are some really good scenes here, all-in-all though, this is the type of bland and pretentious novel that adults write for young adults when they don't understand young adults. I wanted to like this novel, but I just didn't.

But then, I'm not this novel's target audience, so take everything that I say with a grain of salt.


The Vines
The Vines
by Christopher Rice
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars “An impossible shape is assembling . . . as if the bugs have latched on to lingering threads of soul and dead skin.”, 8 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Vines (Paperback)
It’s Caitlin Chaisson’s birthday, and to celebrate, she will throw herself a party, and her husband will give the gift of infidelity, and so, in gratitude for years of marital dishonesty, Caitlin attempts suicide. Only to fail, and in failing she will meet for the first time the horror that lives beneath the Spring House façade. And it will take her pain, her anger, and her blood, and it will feed.

And then, with the help of that which lies beneath the soil of the ex-sugar plantation that is Spring House, Caitlin thanks her husband for his present, and when the screaming stops it will have been a birthday that Caitlin won’t soon forget.

After the cops investigate and Caitlin has gone to her other home, Nova Thomas, a young black woman and student, who works for Willie, her father, calls Caitlin’s longtime, but now estranged friend, and emergency room nurse Blake. When Blake investigates, what he gets from, from the father and daughter, one the product of the old segregated South, the other a product of the new South, is two versions of the same story. Two people entered a tool shed for a game of slap and tickle, and only one bloody and battered person came out. The other has disappeared, skin and bone, without a trace.

What Blake gets from the resentful Nova is that when she got to the shed after the screaming stopped is that she saw flowers, flowers that GLOWED! And now she and her daddy are going, they’re leaving the area, and it’s all up to Blake to help Caitlin from the here-on-in. Although, for all us that have read novels like this again, we all know that we will see the resentful Nova again.

As Blake goes to see Caitlin, who is recovering from the attack on her husband, and who will be distant and unresponsive to Blake. It’s also a visit that will not end well as Caitlin, for all intents and purposes, throws Blake out of her house.

The plot will become more complicated as the novel will switch perspectives as the readers will meet the three men who had murdered Blake’s boyfriend years ago, and who had been blackmailed by Caitlin’s husband for years.

As “The Vines” progresses we see the various forms that the haunting takes to escalate the novel’s violence, from that of supernatural vines and their flowers, to that of large swarms of destructive and hungry insects. Of course, none of this is new, we’ve seen this before, it’s all what you do with your material that counts.

One the good side, Rice has the ability to grab the reader with good and vivid set pieces and action scenes. I also liked was that about half-way through the novel the readers shouldn’t get attached to any of the characters as we will lose a leading actor in this drama.

I also liked that there was an underlying theme to this novel, and that is betrayal. Everybody will perform some form of subterfuge, from minor stuff to some major forms of betrayal. Those that betray, will die, and even then, some betrayers will continue to suffer.

On the negative side, Rice’s writing is a bit too literary, and through this, Rice seems to work hard to put up a barrier between the narrative and reader with its almost too talky and distant style.

Also, despite that this novel is short and easy to read, it’s also obvious that this novel is just too long, as the last forty pages just drags. Any and all interest that I had in this novel just stopped with a lo-o-ong drawn out explanation, and a plot twist that is just totally unnecessary.

I mean, if the novel had just ended with a quick wrap-up after the climax then we would have had a decent creature feature with a great background involving the South’s mostly glossed over past behavior. There is even a jarring, violent and unnecessary, for a novel like this, attack on a motel that is right out of a Scy-Fy channel movie. But, Rice just drags it out, giving us unnecessary plotlines and characters to pad out the wordage so that Rice can have the opportunity to pontificate and lecture.

I originally read this novel in the hopes of reading a ghost story, and this is what this novel is marketed as, but it’s not, not really. It’s really just a run-of-mill horror novel with literary pretentions. In the end, I’m glad it read “The Vines”, but it probably won’t stick with me, and it gives me no imperative to go out and read anything else by Rice. Although, yeah, it would probably make a decent movie.


The Beetle Horde
The Beetle Horde
by Victor Rousseau
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.49

4.0 out of 5 stars “The next moment . . . the hideous monster launched itself into the air straight toward them.”, 3 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Beetle Horde (Paperback)
After an exploratory trip Tommy Travers and Jim Dodd of the Travers Antarctic Expedition end up back to the expedition’s campsite all in a dither as they have made a fantastic find. They have found a giant five foot beetle shell/fossil.

The Travers Expedition are searching for the true North Pole, and they are following the path of the disastrous Greystoke Expedition in which the brilliant, insane, and possible junkie Bram was lost.

The next day the leader of the expedition gives permission to Travers & Dodd to go back to the spot where they found the beetle’s shell and look for more evidence, only the two will then get lost in a whiteout in their biplane, and end up . . . somewhere. Somewhere else, as the plane crashes on a lost tropic landscape in the Antarctic.

After the crash the two explorers are separated, and Tommy finds Haidia, a winsome lass, an old man, and Jim, only to be attacked by a bunch of living beetles and all are captured and taken prisoner.

Then, after being taken underground to the beetle’s hive they are affronted by the still insane Bram, who is in control of the prehistoric insects. There will be a tussle, with Dodd being hurt by Bram, but Haidia will be saved.

Bram and his horde live in the underground land of Submundia where Bram keeps the remnants of the native human populace as slaves for breeding, working, and for food for the insects. Soon, Bram will escape from the bowls of the earth bringing trillions of these mad insects with him as he destroys all that he comes across in an effort to create an apocalypse. Forget logic and logistics, “The Beetle Horde” is without a doubt, melodramatic pulp madness at its best. Rapidly paced, and bloody violent at its end, which admittedly is a bit anti-climactic. This is why I became a Victor Rousseau fan in the first place. Yes, he may have been a hack, but like Murray Leinster, Hugh B. Cave, and others, he was often a talented one.

This is one of those crazy pulp fictions that lay dormant for a long time until the recent explosion of print-on-demand books. Although they made a ton of movies like this during the fifties, and they have been a staple of the Scy-Fy channel, and the direct to video/disc for decades. Here’s your chance to read what sf pulp was like at its beginning. It’s got giant man-eating beetles, two feet long eel-like and tentacled piranhas, giant praying mantises, an ego-maniacal drug fiend trying to destroy the world, romance, action, thrills, chills and spills, airplane crashes, people eating insects, insects eating people, mass murder, etc.

There’s even an element of satire, as Dodd is just as egotistical and as impulsive as the mad Bram as he just can’t control his temper, as he shows the emotional maturity of a backward fourteen-year-old. We are treated to Bram and Dodd screaming at each other like a pair of children as they constantly argue some archeological technicality in a Swiftian manner as neither will give an inch, or to give quarter to the other, even if it means the destruction of the world. An example of their arguments go like this: “’You lie! You lie!’ screamed Bram. ‘I have shown to all the world that phascalotherium, amphitherium, amblotherium, spalacoatherium, and many other orders are to be found Upper Jurassic rocks of England.’”

Say what?!? Oh well.

This review is based on the “Astounding Stories Of Super-Science” serial and not this chapterbook. Still, lesser authors have turned such material into long-winded tomes and series. Here, it’s a short, fast ride. Enjoy.


Murder on Bamboo Lane : An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery
Murder on Bamboo Lane : An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery
by Naomi Hirahara
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars “I feel sad as I realize that her small nuclear family, the three of them, is all gone now”, 26 Jan. 2015
Twenty-two year old Asian-American Ellie Rush is a P2, or a Police Officer II just fresh off of probation, and now she’s been assigned as a bicycle patrol officer out of LAPD Central Division, whose job is mostly doing the mundane job of patrolling porta-potties, and giving jaywalkers tickets. When one day on patrol she is accosted by a local because the neighborhood is being cluttered up with bulletins looking for the missing Jenny Nguten, a former Pan Pacific West College classmate of hers. Nguten is a young woman who had underwent a personality change after her mother was murdered in Vietnam.

Ellie is also an ambitious, and eager young woman in transition, she’s entering a new phase of her life. She’s becoming a police officer, something she has wanted to be for sometime, but something her friends and family, other than her aunt, Assistant Chief Cheryl Toma, not only doesn’t understand, but something they actively distrust. This is also something that has also caused the breakup with her boyfriend, Benjamin.

Then things start getting tricky as Ellie gets involved in the investigation, she starts getting pressure from her superiors to leave the investigation alone, while her aunt is pressuring her to keep investigating. Then somebody of whom she asks questions is threatened.

Things will continue to go downhill as the crap hits the fan, and Ellie gets caught in the crossfire. And then her friends, her ex-boyfriend, her aunt, whose reputation will get very tarnished, some of her co-workers, and her family, all will get involved in her life and career.

And through it all her BFF and Watson, Nay Pram, will stick with with her through everything. Even her ex, despite his contempt and hatred for the police, will come through in the end to help her out when she needs him.

As the opening salvo for a series, Naomi Hirahara gives us a great character in Ellie Rush. Ellie is not a television hero, she’s a young woman who’s stuck between several worlds and cliques, and she’s trying to find her place in all of them. Hirahara does an excellent job in showing a young woman who is clearly uncomfortable in being the center of the attention that she’s constantly getting, how uncomfortable she is with the break-up with Benjamin, and the wedge that her career choice is causing with her friends and family. She’s not some police savant, in fact, she’s actually more wrong than right here. This is also a novel in which Rush also starts learning who her friends, and possible enemies, are.

I can see this book, and character, as the possible basis for a television show, or movie, starring somebody akin to a young Grace Park, an actress who is actually referenced here, as Ellie.

This is also a great novel that is a anti-dote for the constant barrage of board-and-breakfast, foodie, fishing, and other stale cozies that are cluttering up the marketplace. This is also a good novel for adults who are looking for something for their younger readers to transition into from young adult books to adult novels with young protagonists.

I’d like to give this novel a higher rating, but, I fear that Hirahara can only get better with this series. Well, okay, four-and-a-half stars. So, I look forward to reading more of Ellie Rush in the future, and there is one coming. Yay!


Reaper's Touch
Reaper's Touch
Price: £2.48

4.0 out of 5 stars “...just as Jake felt the bones in his neck start to separate, there was a deafening explosion. A flash of searing white light.”, 22 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Reaper's Touch (Kindle Edition)
Abby is a Ranger in America’s undated alternate western past where her job is to fight the Reapers. The Reapers being people who’ve become infected, or possessed if you will, with an unknown parasite that drives them mad, and causes them to become violent, cannibalistic, and over-sexed, crazies. Both Rangers, who are immune to the parasite, and the Reapers, are blessed with remarkable, and sometimes bizarre, healing powers.

Abby is one of the few women in the Rangers, and the pressure is on her to retire from active duty, and to birth and raise more Ranger babies. Then after an airship crash, Abby is sent to the Fort Hill research town, which annoys her to no end as she feels that she’s being shuffled out of danger.

No such luck. On her way to Fort Hill, Abby ends up getting into a skirmish with some Reapers, and is helped, and then kidnapped, by Jake who turns out to be a hundred and fifty year-old Reaper who barely has his parasite under control.

Then things go from bad to worse as the Fort Hill research facility will be attacked, and wiped out, while Jake and Abby are on their way there. And after a fight when they get there, Abby learns that the Reapers now have a leader that is gathering the Reapers together and creating a Reaper army, and that some of the scientists from the fort have escaped, even if their research has been destroyed. Abby also finds out that Jake has these few survivors secreted away in his secret hideout,

However, that’s okay, as they can continue their experiments in an attempt to destroy the parasite while not destroying the host. And they have to do this while using Jake and Abby as their subjects in their effort to find a way to destroy, or control, the parasites. And since Fort Hill was betrayed by somebody who was human and wants the cure buried, Jake has to keep the information of the location of the scientists, and that they are still alive secret.

On the average, I liked this transgenre horror/urban fantasy/action/western, but, it did have some flaws. Why does this parasite make a Reaper a made rapist, and why immortal? I never did have much truck with immortality, especially when there is some form of romance between an immortal and a mortal, and the “romance” between Abby and Jake is portrayed as one really rocky relationship.

Another problem is that while I like Abby, she is so stubborn and headstrong, that she finds it impossible to listen to anybody, and keeps rushing into stupid situations. Then there is the requisite love scene, which takes forever to get around to, is done at the most inappropriate time. And it goes on forever.

On the average though, I liked this book enough that if there were ever a sequel, I would read it, and I plan on reading the first book in this series called “Gun Shy”. And really, there is plenty of room in this world for Stone for even more future fictions.

Be prepared though, the book is written as a stand-alone, even if part of a series, so that the reader seems to be dropped into a fully-formed creation. Although Stone gives us enough details peppered throughout the novel for us to catch up. But, that’s okay, I can do that. And I liked the lack of nihilism that saturates so many of the apocalyptic stories that I end up reading. It’s also one of the few apocalyptic stories that makes winter an important part of the storyline. I also liked the cover, it would have been nice to have been informed as to who the artist is.


Nightcrawlers
Nightcrawlers
by Tim Curran
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.17

4.0 out of 5 stars “...what came out of that poor woman was more of a grub than a human...its cries would bring the others...blood calls to blood.”, 3 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Nightcrawlers (Paperback)
In Haymarket, WI, a cemetery has been found, a dumping ground, the bodies are incomplete, and they’ve been gnawed on by, well, something. Something not human, but, not animal either. Then, while on patrol, two deputies, the local Snow, and the ex-big city Riegan, find themselves the hunted. Only one will come back.

As the police search for their lost comrade, the foggy landscape takes on Lovecraftian dimensions as their searches lead them to a long-dead ghost town. Abandoned, broken down, and decayed into its very foundations, the hungry creatures, which seem to flit about just the edges of the police’s perceptions, they quickly become more concrete, and these creatures will resemble the ghouls in Lovecraft’s story “Pickman’s Model”. One creature that is seen is described as “. . . hunched over and dwarfish, like a living skeleton in a fancy dress that was just filthy and flyblown. And that face . . . leering and wicked, like something sunk in a pond, worked by leeches and tunneled by worms, white and puckered with a gray, grinning mouth full of narrow, overlapping teeth that were brown and black like she’s been chewing tobacco and graveyard soil.”

As the story progresses, we meet the ninety-six Elena Blasden who will tell the story of Clavitt Fields/French Village and the Ezren clan. Essentially this is the story “The Colour Out Of Space” with the Ezrens standing in for Lovecraft’s perennial bad-guys, the Whateleys. “Nightcrawlers” just reeks with Lovecraft’s obsession with decay and decadence. Tim Curran’s description of the local landscape as a “. . . place [that] had gone bad, had been poisoned to its very roots. The very marrow of the village was rancid and contaminated, its blood gone black and toxic like bile.”

Then State Trooper Lieutenant Luo Kenney and Sheriff Godfrey of Haymarket decide lead a party down into the labyrinth of tunnels that are found under French Village. This will be a horror adventure unto itself.

Again, I’m reminded of how Curran shows his influences, here is a story that clearly seems to influenced by H. P. Lovecraft while mixed with Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted vitality and realism.

As the novel progress Curran doesn’t spare the reader any details when it comes to Haymarket’s dark past, and of the horror that is rising from its diseased past.

“Nightcrawler” is also a story that is told over a period of just a few days as Haymarket’s long festering history starts coming to a head as those that live beneath the graveyards are now starting to claw their way to the surface.

Unfortunately, while extremely vivid and epic, the ending is still a bit of a let down, and, at least to me, a bit weak. Also, despite the page count, this is an extremely quick read as it is printed in large type with lots of white space and large margins. And once again, DarkFuse refuses to give credit to the artist who has created this book’s great cover, and while it really doesn’t represent anything in the book, it’s still a pretty memorable one, and credit should be given where credit is due.

I’ve yet to read a bad Tim Curran book, and this one is no exemption. And despite its weak ending it is still a solid piece of neo-horror pulp fiction.


Fangtooth
Fangtooth
Price: £2.32

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "...when the creature's mouth twitched...She raised the knife in her hand, then stabbed it into the creature's eye.", 1 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Fangtooth (Kindle Edition)
As this is a monster book it starts off with bloody murder, as all good monster books do.

Then the story switches to the lonely widower Bruce Holden, who is buying and moving, along with his obnoxious sixteen-year-old son Jack, to his new house in the isolated fishing village of Mulberry. Bruce is hoping to put his wife's recent death, and Jack's pot using and poor company behind him. This will be hard as the local populace hold all outsiders responsible for recent paucity of the fish in the nearby sea.

Jack, in his obnoxious acting out, will try as hard as possible to be as uncooperative as possible, and after arguing with Bruce, walks out on his father. While going on a stroll he meets local bully Rocky, Rocky's girlfriend Jen, and Jen's friend Sara and between Rocky's blustery threats Jack is informed that he is now living in the infamously haunted Mulberry Triangle house. A house in which the previous owner, and his family, just mysteriously up and disappeared.

Jack is also annoyed that his father has been noticed by the redheaded Erin McVey, a visiting marine biologist. Also annoyed is Captain Trent Zander of the ship "Storm Bringer" and who, because the fish have stopped appearing, has been reduced to being a pot smuggler.

Then a wife becomes a widow, as the killings continue, and the killings are starting to happen closer and closer to Mulberry, this will include an attack on Erin herself.

The incidents and the tensions continue to escalate, but I kept getting distracted because one of the major problems of the book. This problem is Bruce's son Jack. Every time damn time he walks on stage the story just . . . STOPS. Besides being obnoxious, he does everything that is possible to obstruct his father, and to be a smart-ass, and if that isn't enough, he just doesn't know when to keep his big mouth shut. When he discovers that Zander is a dope runner he steals some grass, and then he can't stop himself from shooting off his mouth. I just wanted him to fall off a cliff and get eaten by crabs.

But he's not alone. Virtually none of the characters in "Fangtooth" really rise above either, at worst, cliché, or at best, just shallow. Bruce is a wishy-washy character, Rocky is your typical loud-mouthed bully, and local madwoman and rabble-rouser Lillian Brown, who keeps popping up, is just insane in the membrane as she NEVER stops her bloody ranting.

Compounding this novel's shallow characterization is the by-the-numbers plot. Like Shaun Jeffrey's "Deadfall", the previous novel of Jeffrey's that I have read, "Fangtooth" is a novel that reads more like a novelization of one of the SCY-FY channel's lesser efforts. There is never an explanation as to why these seven inch deep sea fishes should have grown big enough to each people, or even how to walk on land. And when a crucial plot point is dependent on the superstitious performing human sacrifices, you know that the author is just tapped out as far as his storytelling skills go.

Yeah, I was never really bored, except when Jack walked on stage, but I was never, ever really excited. And at this novel "rousing" conclusion, when all of main characters are fighting for survival, and when the entrapped bunch should have been sticking together to fight off the invading hordes, the clichés never stop. They separate, they fight, they kill each other, and they act as stupidly as possible. If you're a fan of Guy N. Smith's "Crab" books though, you'll probably like this.

This review is from the slipcased version from Dark Regions, and I found the cover by Frank Wallis ugly, and the slipcase too tight to easily get the book in and out of.


The Uninvited
The Uninvited
by Dorothy Macardle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.19

5.0 out of 5 stars " . . . the wreath of mist condensed and its incandescence intensified . . . the howling below rose to a crescendo of terror.", 31 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Uninvited (Hardcover)
First of all, the story is done, those that have lived it, know it. Those that survived it, know it, remember it, but will not admit it. But this story happened and now all that remains is its recounting. And now that's what Roderick Fitzgerald, a freelance writer is doing. And so now the story begins . . .

Set during a mythical 1942 in England, where the raging world war doesn't seem to exist, and Roderick and his younger sister Pamela, are "disappointed" by their living in London and they are now looking for a new home when they stumble upon Cliff End, a magnificent, and abandoned, home on the outskirts of the village Biddlecombe in North Devon. They get into contact with the owner and his granddaughter, Commander Brooke and Stella Meredith, respectively, and the Commander reluctantly agrees to sell the white elephant cheap.

So the siblings move, bringing their housekeeper Lizzie Flynn, and her cat Whiskey, with them from London. Lizzie will be a stabilizing force for them, a stable, loyal, and good person, unfortunately she's also superstitious, and who is often used as this novel's comic foil.

Meanwhile after moving into Cliff End, Roderick is having problems, he's trying to work through a writer's block on a book, which sounds terrible dull to us, and which he really doesn't seem to care much about himself. Then he finds new inspiration in writing a new play.

So the moving, the settling in, and the writing are all happening while the siblings are battling the increasingly oppressive atmosphere of the house, which may, or may not, be haunted. So at about the hundred page mark the reader will begin to realize that "The Uninvited" is a novel that will have several divergent plotlines, all of which are related.

The first is, is Cliff End really haunted, or are the characters imaging the cold spots, the odors, and the ghostly images that seem to happening?

Another is the domestic plotline as Roderick and Pamela try to upgrade Cliff End for their habitability, to settle in, and for Roderick to get his writing career back on track.

And the last is that this book is a detective story. And like all good detective and mystery novels, this book starts out all pastel, as Macardle word paints a wonderfully optimistic and homey picture of Cliff End as the Fitzgerald's new home. We then get to view this new future starts going south as the ghostly things start happening, and as the siblings start investigating, more and more dark secrets end up getting uncovered, including, as we, and they, find out that there have been several deaths in the grand old house, at least one of which may have been a murder. And like all good fair-play mysteries, Macardle gives us all the clues to what has happened, and is happening, in the house, and of the novel's denouement, if you just pay attention.

Into the mix are a number of interesting characters that will be used to tell "The Uninvited"'s story. Like the Commander, who is rather anti-social, and who is also a rigid, mean, controlling man, who will brook no back talk, or behavior that contradicts his own beliefs.

Or Stella Meredith, a waifish, and innocent, young woman who has been browbeaten by her grandfather and her village into a mold that she can't fit into. Stella is a lonely woman whose in desperate need for the friendship of Roderick and Pamela, but whose loyalty to her grandfather, and whose idolization of her dead mother is tearing her apart.

And last and not least, there are the two dead characters Mary Meredith, Stella's mother, and Carmel, Mary's maid, artist's model, and gypsy. As the novel progresses we find that Mary has been idolized and idealized by her family, and the village, while Carmel has been vilified, as the tramp, the slut, the other woman, and the "other".

Of course, I'm not really giving much away here if you've seen the movie from 1944, because if you have, you already know all of this. And the movie follows the novel rather faithfully, at least until the second half, which deviates somewhat from the parent story.

Miss Holloway, for instance get much more screentime than she gets pagetime, and the town doctor is played up as being Pamela's possible suitor in the book, while the character is an old country doctor in the movie. But, still, all the major scenes of the movie are here in the book, I think, after all, it's been years since I've seen the movie.

I read somewhere that Macardle that was a socialist, if so, it really doesn't show other than in the end, this book turns out to be a scathing attack on the cult of personality, as everybody seems to worship the very ground that Mary has trod upon. But, it's also a love story, as Roderick fights to free Stella from her imprisonment of the past, and Mary's legacy. There is also a slightly feminist flavor to this book as all the females are constantly undervalued by the more conservative people of this novel.

This novel has drama, suspense, romance, melodrama, occult practices, idol worship, self-imposed blinders, hauntings, ghosts, possible possession, etc. When I first read this book about fifteen years ago it put me to sleep, but I suspect that this was the book itself, and reading the more reader friendly hard cover, there were times when I just couldn't put it down. Still, for me now, once the novel got started I was never bored. This time around I also saw future echoes in this book of what would later turn up in classic psychologically based ghost stories like Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting Of Hill House" and Richard Matheson's "Hell House". This book has been out-of-print for way too long. Somebody should do something about that.

Although I should warn you that those raised on books like the Harry Potter books will probably find the prose a bit too formal, but it is what it is, and I enjoyed Dorothy Macardle's "The Uninvited".

Over the years I have read the following ghost stories that I would recommend.

Cecilia de Noel (Illustrated Edition) (Dodo Press) by Lanoe Falconer.
Ghost Pilot by Anton Emmerton.
The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Modern Classics) by Shirley Jackson.
Hell House by Richard Matheson.
A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson.
The Virago Book of Victorian Ghost Stories (Charnwood Library) edited by Richard Dalby.
Witch House by Evangeline Walton.


Realm Walker
Realm Walker
Price: £2.25

4.0 out of 5 stars "Demons rarely killed clean and this victim was no exception. Thankfully, she...hadn't crabbed a bite to eat on the way...", 26 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Realm Walker (Kindle Edition)
Juliana Norris is half-fae, half mage, and a Realm Walker, a type of police officer who investigates crimes done to, and by, the fae. Juliana can also see the magical signature and aura of both people and fae. To do this, she works for the International Law Enforcement Agency, or Agency for short, and after a fight with a troll, the troll tells Juliana that her death is coming. So while recovering from her fight up turns Thomas Kendrick, a thousand year-old vampire that Juliana is bound to, and that she is in love with, but who left her, and broke her heart, seven years ago.

Unfortunately, after Thomas had left her, Raoul DeSoto and his minions attacked, raped, and tortured Juliana. Afterwards Juliana and Michael Bishop, Thomas' second, tracked down all of the rogue vampires and dispatched them with extreme prejudice. All except Raoul, who's still on the loose, and now he's back, just as Thomas shows back up. It seems that Thomas had misunderstood Juliana when she had stated that she had need of some "me" time, and he will spend the rest of the novel trying to make up for his misunderstanding.

Unfortunately, that Raoul has turned up as Thomas comes back into Juliana's life is no coincidence. Raoul had been a mage before being turned into a vampire, but being vampirized will kill those powers, and now he's looking for a way to reclaim his old mage powers, and to do this, he has made a deal with the devil, so to say, and in the process he has let loose two demons on the world. One has possessed her werewolf friend and partner Nathanial, while the other, a first-class demon, will possess . . . well, it will come as no surprise, but you'll have to read the novel to find out who. The trouble is that Juliana can see everybody's magical signature, that is, everybody's except for demons.

Now Juliana is in a tight spot, she has to rescue Nathaniel by killing the demon, while not killing the host. That's okay, but when the Agency puts out a kill order on the second possession, and its host, Juliana has to figure out how to save the possessed while not killing them. All while trying to keep her job and not have the Agency kill her friend. Another problem is that the demons can jump hosts, usually when they've used up the host, so just killing the demon's host isn't a good idea.

What follows in "Realm Walker" is a cat-and-mouse game between Juliana and the demon as the demon starts its bloody rampage. And what does Raoul have to do with all of this? True, he's responsible for the demons to have been set loose on the populace, but what was the POINT?

This is a story in which Collins will plunk you down into a fully-formed world with the assumption that her audience will have an IQ above that of room temperature and will catch on, and you will. Sure, Juliana has a past, but much of which you'll be gradually filled in on during the process of Collins tellin' Juliana's story. I mean, I don't have to have everything explained in detail to me, I got what was needed. The rest is background to put the current story into contrast, and besides, we never DID learn what the Giant Rat of Sumatra was in the Sherlock Holmes stories either.

One of the great things about this novel is the characters contained within. The first, of course, is Juliana. Juliana is a character who is haunted by Thomas' abandonment, her mistreatment by Raoul, her mysterious parentage, and that she seemingly can't be killed by ordinary means. Although, as we, and Juliana, finds out, that ain't necessarily true. She's also no shrinking violet, she's fiercely independent, she's competent at her job, if fact, she's the best that the Agency has, and she knows that and she's not gonna give up her job for nothing. Even if she's confused as to where she now stands in her world now that Thomas has come back into it to shake it up. Oh, and like most of us, she's got a boss who's a real dick.

Then there is her new family, Thomas' sister Sara Piper, her husband, top mage James, and Rachel, their young daughter. True, at times their characters are rather sketchy, but it's Juliana's fierce loyalty to them that I liked. These characters will take increasing important roles in Juliana's story over this novel and its sequel.

On the other hand, I didn't quite buy into Thomas. After a thousand years, his only love is Juliana? Yeah? Must have been a long, lonely thousand years. Now he starts off as an arrogant, possessive sphincter, but he gets better as the novel progresses, but as a character he has two real problems, at least for me. The first is that he constantly acts like some glorified cartoonish version of a frustrated twentieth century male instead of a thousand year-old vampire overlord. At times I thought that I was reading the equivalent of a sit-com. Make him a couple of hundred years old and I could have bought it. I did like that all holy hell is gonna rain down on those who messed with Juliana when he finds Raoul, and those who may have helped Raoul, and deceived Thomas. When he finds out who they all are.

The other is the longevity of the vampires and some of the other fae. C'mon, a thousand years, give or take a couple of hundred? Really? For me, it's so hard to identify with immortals, they live forever, stay beautiful forever, and never age, and yet they still retain their humanity? Nah, I don't buy it.

Still, I liked the story, but really, it's the character of Juliana, and Collins' handling of her, that carries the novel. Juliana goes from snark to sarcasm, all delivered with a trademarked bad attitude.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 26, 2014 4:28 AM GMT


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