4MK is a gruesome thriller

the fouth monkey

 

The four wise monkeys of ancient oriental myth — hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil, and do no evil — give the killer in The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 28, 2017) his name. The 4MK abducts women and sends an ear to the next of kin. Two days later, the victim’s extracted eyeballs arrive in the mail. Then the tongue. Two days after that, 4MK positions the victim’s mutilated body where easily discovered.

Hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil, do no evil. Those are the rules.

Detective Sam Porter, on bereavement leave following his wife’s tragic murder by a convenience store robber, receives a phone call from his partner. The Four Monkeys Killer was accidentally run down this morning  by a Chicago bus on his way to mail an ear of his latest victim to Arthur Talbot, one of the richest men in the city.

Sam’s chased the 4MK for five years. Seven dead girls he couldn’t save. Now it appears Talbot’s illegitimate daughter Emory will be 4MK’s next victim. The clock’s ticking as Sam assembles his task force and tries to find Emory before she dies of dehydration.

The killer’s diary found on the man hit by the bus tells what it’s like to be raised in a family of psychopaths. Barker effectively rotates POV among Porter, Emory, task force members, and the diary. The burning questions become: Is the diary real? Is the dead man the 4MK? Will Emory survive? What did Talbot do to warrant punishment by 4MK? Who killed Heather, Sam’s wife, and what will happen to him?

Set in metropolitan Chicago, the action delves into underground tunnels once used by bootleggers where thousands of rats thrive and Emory may be sequestered. Will she be eaten by rats, die of hydration, or have her eyes and tongue plucked out before 4MK is through with her?

Suspense builds as time runs out. Sam, who was neither able to protect his wife nor the seven previous 4MK victims, is desperate to reach Emory before she perishes.

The Fourth Monkey is as much a great horror novel as a mystery or thriller. Very highly recommended for readers with strong stomachs, insatiable curiosities, and time on their hands because they won’t be able to stop until the very end.

Supernatural Noir

the corpse and the girl

 

John Urbancik’s style is spellbinding. He’s a consummate craftsman. His writing seems like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Stephen King, with maybe a little Richard Thomas thrown in. Maybe some Lewis Carroll, too, to make it even more surreal.

The Corpse and the Girl from Miami (Dark Fluidity, 2017) is a mystery within a mystery. It’s noir and a supernatural thriller all in one.

And, despite everything else, it’s also a love story.

It’s set in Boston, MA, not in Miami. There are some displaced Floridians (Ofelia, Mr. Maker, Armando Luis Salazar) prowling the New England darkness one unusually stormy night, but they have no special love for Bean Town. Neither does The Corpse.

Imagine waking up in a cemetery with three bullet holes in your chest and no pulse. You have no remembrance of who shot you or why. You can’t even remember your name.

Piecing together his identity and solving the mystery of his murder turns into a herculean task for the dead man. There’s another walking dead man and a burgeoning cast of characters, some of whom may be aligned with powerful supernatural forces, to complicate the plot.

No one tells the truth. Ferreting out who killed whom, who is working for whom, and who’s a good person and who’s a bad person keeps the reader turning pages.

If you like a good mystery in an urban fantasy with supernatural elements, you’ll love The Corpse and the Girl from Miami.

Who are the Halloween Children?

 

Halloween Children cover

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss (Random House Hydra, June 2017) works by building suspense, by gradually increasing the sense of impending dread. Readers know from the very first page that something went terribly wrong Halloween night and lots of children either killed or were killed. Dread builds as you discover how really weird and totally dis-functional everyone in the entire Stillbrook apartment complex — especially the entire Naylor family — has become. You know all hell is about to break loose, and you can’t wait for it to happen. But, like waiting for Halloween or for Christmas, wait you must.

Good horror builds expectations. There are a lot of little boos that set the scene, but you know right from the get-go that the big fright comes on Halloween. Everything else is a warm-up or a red-herring.

“I think the environment in our apartment complex had everything to do with what happened,” Harris Naylor admits. “Not just our management policies and our neighbors, but maybe even the issues that had been swimming within our own family.”

Is the apartment complex haunted? Just when you think it is, a logical explanation pops up. But then something else weird happens, and the suspense builds until you’re sure the place is haunted by evil spirits.

Or maybe by crazy people: not just the children but adults, too.

Harris again hits the nail on the head: “If a place is going to be haunted, it’s more likely to be an apartment building, since there’s a high turnaround in tenants and folks from a variety of backgrounds will bring different quirks and neuroses and illnesses with them. Going with the odds, an apartment building simply has more opportunities for crazy, haunted people to live there.”

Or die there.

Heh heh.

So who are the Halloween Children really? Mattie and Amber? Ghosts? Evil spirits?

Read the novel and see with your own eyes.

Heh heh.

Dean Koontz has a new heroine

Dean Koontz combines Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate with Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives to create his latest pulse-pounding suspense thriller The Silent Corner (Bantam Books, June 2017).

Jane Hawk’s husband commits suicide, but he isn’t the only one to die by his own hand. When Jane, a highly-trained FBI Special Agent, takes bereavement leave and investigates the sudden rash of unexplained deaths, she and her five-year-old son are threatened by mysterious strangers who know all about her. Jane’s only hope to save her son and herself is to go entirely off the grid — to disappear into the silent corner where no one can track her movements or whereabouts.

Because those hunting Jane and her son don’t play nice, Jane can’t either. She becomes a rogue agent, a cold-blooded killer, and a thief.

Like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Jane Hawk has skills that allow her to survive against impossible odds. She goes on the offensive and ruthlessly kills people who deserve killing. We cheer her on each time another bad guy bites the dust.

The Silent Corner is only the first of at least three Jane Hawk novels. The Whispering Room will be out next January.

Exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and well-written, I recommend The Silent Corner to everyone who enjoys a good read.

Grunt Hero is a fast and fun read

grunt hero cover517cLXlVFiL__SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

 

What more can aliens throw at the humans of planet earth than they already have? First came the Cray with their power-destroying EMP; then came the mind-controlling infestations; finally, the earth itself is being Terra-formed to become a breeding ground for aliens. This is truly the end times.

The world as we knew it is no more; The United States no longer exists as a political entity, although Russia apparently still does (and China, too). NUSNA (the New United States of North America) has formed an alliance with the Cray and their masters. So Mason and Team OMBRA must reluctantly ally with other aliens who call themselves Khron. If you thought author Ochse threw in everything including the kitchen sink in the first two novels, this third novel includes Aliens from captured UFOs who’ve been held hostage at Area 51 for more than 70 years. The fast-paced storyline doesn’t stop, and people close to him continue to die on Lieutenant Mason’s watch just as they did when he was a simple grunt. But true heroes — even reluctant heroes like Mason — don’t let the dead and dying slow them down. They forge ahead because it’s all they know to do.

Although we learn the war between the human-like Khron and the more alien Umi has been going on almost forever, the battle for earth is almost over. The warring parties will have to continue the fight elsewhere.

What the world needs now — perhaps more than ever before — is a hero. But who is left to step up to the plate and pinch-hit for humanity? The author has already polished off most of hero squad. Fort Irwin and everyone still there was flattened by an asteroid. Are there no grunts left to be canon fodder?

This third volume in the Grunt-series raises as many questions as it answers. It’s action-packed like the first two books, and it’s a fast and fun read. I recommend Grunt Hero to all lovers of military sf.

And don’t be surprised if a sequel appears with Mason visiting other worlds to continue battling the Cray and their masters.

The Secret Life of Souls

secret-life-of-souls-ketchum

 

I love novels written in present tense. It gives such immediacy to the action that you feel you’re right there in the middle of things.

The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee (Pegasus Books, November 2016) is written entirely in present tense and frequently switches POV between Delia Cross, her twin brother Robbie, their mother Patricia, their father Bart, their agent Roman, and their dog Caity. You are actually inside their heads, You see through their eyes, You feel what they feel. For brief periods of time, you become—actually are—them.

You learn what it’s like to share memories and thoughts with another person.

And that’s what makes this story so wonderful. Oh, sure, there’s a lovable urchin on the brink off stardom (Delia), an equally-lovable mutt (Caity), abominable parents (Pat and Bart), an unscrupulous agent (Roman), and even a suspicion of the supernatural at work. It’s a complicated story about a dysfunctional family and a special kind of love that endures despite everything that happens.

The pacing is superb. The first twenty pages are a bit slow-going compared to the rest of the novel. But once bad things start happening, it’s a non-stop roller-coaster ride all the way to the end.

 

Angels Versus Angels

lostness

When fallen angels live amongst humans, there’s always hell to pay.

I’ve been a fan of Billie Sue Mosiman’s stories since the 1980s, and LOSTNESS (January 2017) is no exception. A sequel to BANISHED and ANGELIQUE, this tale is set in 1940 with many of the same characters from BANISHED. Angelique returns, still in a child’s body. Nisroc (Nick) travels in Europe with Jody, the midget. Henry, the shape-shifter, is back, too. But fascinating new characters are introduced in LOSTNESS—Ladina, Jules, Tina, Will, Graham, Duma, Monty—to complicate the storyline. The great battle between angels—between the fallen and the unfallen—is about to begin.

My only gripes with the novel are the mention of the CIA and a few minor things a good copy editor would have corrected. The Central Intelligence Agency didn’t exist in 1940. The closest thing was the FBI, or Military Intelligence, or possibly the OSS.

I love Mosiman’s images of angels allowing their wings to expand. I love being inside Jules’ head when she dream-travels.

Once again, Mosiman shows there’s more in heaven and earth than dreamt in our philosophies.