Tag Archives: Horror Review

The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum

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Ketchum was a man way ahead of his time. In 1989, he wrote The Girl Next Door. There was nothing on the shelves remotely like it by other authors. There was nothing as brutal, as gut-wrenching, or emotionally draining as The Girl Next Door. This kind of fiction wouldn’t see the light of day for another 10-20 years and no one has done it as well as Ketchum did almost 30 years ago.

Meg and her sister Susan’s parents are killed in an automobile accident. They come to live next door to 12-year old David. Ruth, a single-mom whose rough-around-the-edges demeanor always made her home inviting to David and his peers. You could sneak a beer, take a drag off a cigarette and she wouldn’t care. When the girls move in, David begins to have a crush on Meg. But as time passes, it is apparent that all is not well in the household. Meg begins to confide in David of Ruth abusing her. David can’t believe it. Ruth? The mom that was so fun to be around? Soon David discovers that the stories are true and they’re only the beginning of a long, downward spiral into horrific abuse and madness, and all he can do is watch it unfold in front of his very eyes.

The Girl Next Door is loosely based off a true story that took place in 1965. Just knowing that makes the world seem like a darker place. These types of stories weren’t told on the news back then like they are now. This was a time where skeletons were kept in the closet and people turned a blind eye from things they deemed to be “none of their business”. Ketchum’s story has a twisted, Lord of the Flies quality to it. Adults were trusted by children to always be right and do the right thing back then. Watching the children join in on Ruth’s madness towards the girls twists your guts with a chef’s knife. You can’t look away and just when you think it can’t get any worse…well, I’m sure you can finish that sentence yourself. The Girl Next Door is a story that will haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s that powerful.

 

5 Steel Doored Torture Chambers out of 5

 

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Something Violent – Kristopher Rufty

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Dr Phil meets Natural Born Killers. Sound like an odd combination? It totally works in Rufty’s Something Violent. When Jody and Seth are out on their killing sprees, they are all business. But their marriage has hit the rocks. Where do the serial killers turn to when they can’t fix their marriage on their own? They kidnap the famous marriage counselor to the stars, Ron McClure. Ron isn’t the first man to fall victim to Jody flaunting her lucious body in public. Too bad he didn’t see the taser she had hidden under her skirt. No he finds himself knocked unconscious, shoved in a trunk, and wakes up ducttaped to a chair in some unknown basement. When you counsel Hollywood’s elite, you come across some crazy clientele. But nothing could have prepared him for Seth and Jody.

Something Violent worked for me. The premise is just crazy enough to make you shake your head, but Rufty plays the whole thing straight and makes the streaks of black comedy work. As the demented couple unfurl their story to the counselor, the human element comes through. Sure they’re warped as it gets, but in a very odd way, you start to feel for them, care about them. That’s what makes the whole thing work. If all they are is monsters kidnapping a doctor, all you would have is the shock value without any substance. Rufty shows how nutcase like Seth and Jody can be three dimensional. Brilliant. Kudos to Rufty for making this a fun, page-turner.

 

4.5 Purple Wigs out of 5

 

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Blanky – Kealon Patrick Burke

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Steve doesn’t think his life can get any worse. His nine-month-old baby girl mysteriously dies in her crib. His grief stricken wife, Lexi, can’t bear to be around Steve and the house where their daughter died. So, she moves back in with her parents, leaving Steve all alone to face the misery by himself. Then the mysterious baby blanket shows up out of the blue. Where did that come from? Didn’t that become lost when they were clearing their daughter’s room of all the belongings? What is going on? Are we starting to see a man’s frayed ends of sanity?

Blanky is a boot kick to the solar plexus as the reader sucks wind, trying to find respite from Steve’s all-encompassing world of grief. The thought of losing your only child, just as their life got started, is a parent’s worst nightmare. To have to go through that grief alone would be hell on earth. Burke doesn’t let up. He provides what looks like an escape hatch for our protagonist and then promptly smashes his fingers with the lid when he tries to use it as an exit. Another thing that I’m impressed with is Kealon’s word choice throughout the story. He flexes his wordsmith muscle without coming across as frivolous or arrogant. A dark, disturbing story that was perfect with Halloween around the corner.

5 Hidden Baby Teeth out of 5

 

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Bone White – Ronald Malfi

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A man shambles down out of the hills of northern Alaska and into the only diner in the tiny, fly-speck sized town of Dread’s Hand. He sits down at the counter and casually orders his favorite, hot cocoa. The waitress is trembling as she brings it to him. As Joe Mallory is enjoying his drink with dried blood all over his shirt, he suggests to the waitress that she contact the local law officer, that he has finished burying five bodies in the hills and he’d like to turn himself in.

Paul Gallo watches the news report back in Maryland of the Dread’s Hand murders and immediately takes interest. His twin brother, Danny, disappeared in the remote town over a year ago and no one has seen or heard from him since. He quickly flies out there to see if his brother is one of the dead and to finally get some answers. However, the residents of Dread’s Hand aren’t much for strangers in their town and Paul Gallo doesn’t belong there.

So far, Bone White is my favorite read of 2017. Malfi does an incredible job at painting the bleakness of the desolate Alaskan town and the haunting foothills that stretch out from it. My emotions ranged across the spectrum as I read the story. There aren’t many places that are truly isolated anymore. Dread’s Hand is the exception and Malfi plays it up like a maestro. The whole time I was reading Bone White, I kept having visualizations of 30 Days of Night. Shoddy cell phone coverage, vast expanses of nothingness, residents few and far between and no one is interested in helping Paul solve his mystery. All the while, in the background, you can feel the dread and danger mounting, but still out of reach. You know something is coming, but what? If you have yet to become acquainted with Malfi’s work, I highly recommend it and Bone White is a fantastic place to start.

5 Crosses in the Yard out of 5

 

* This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Wrath of the Ancients – Catherine Cavendish

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Adeline Ogilvy, a young widow from Wimbledon, has accepted a job in Vienna. Her assignment is to employ her skills as a typist and transcribe the memoirs of the late Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, an archeologist with a most peculiar hidden history. When she begins her recording the doctor’s notes, she learns that, five years earlier, he claims to discover the tomb of Cleopatra. Even more astonishing, it seems that he has brought more than secrets back from Egypt. Strange occurrences begin to happen at the mansion. Is what Adeline seeing before her eyes real or a hallucination?

This is my first read of Cavendish and I love the slow burn in this Gothic chiller. I also like how blends an archelogical curiosity and characters with her own original take on what happened all those thousands of years ago. As the story unfurls, I can’t help be reminded of the quiet horror writing style of Charles L. Grant. The characters are interesting and I’m drawn to keep turning the pages to see where they go in the story. If I have any criticism it’s that there are parts where the pacing seems off. In one instance, things are doing a nice slow burn and then it closes in way too much of a flurry. But, it’s a small blemish in an overall fun story. If you haven’t had the pleasure to stumble upon Cavendish, Wrath of the Ancients is a great one to introduce yourself.

4 1/2 Green Glowing Apparations out of 5

 

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Fungoid – William Meikle

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There’s a fungus among us. When the oily rain starts pouring down, what follow brings mankind to it’s knees. A fast growing fungus starts spreading and wiping out the vast majority of the population. Is it from outer space? Was it an experiment gone wrong? Does it really matter? The speed at which these deadly spores wreak havoc on the world is astonishing and it’s decimating everything in it’s path. We’re left with only a few characters that have hung onto life by the skin of their teeth. One is a scientist that specializes in fungus and stumbles onto a possible solution. Will it work and, if it does, will it work in time or is this Mother Nature’s answer to it’s human problem?

Meikle’s Fungoid is a fast-paced read that will have you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out what will happen next and how will our heroes get out of this predicament. The characters are realistic. The situation is plausible. The suspense can be cut with a knife. I really don’t have much for criticism for this one. Meikle was a scientist in a previous life and you can tell he knows his way around the fungus. What’s amazing to me is that he makes it interesting. Funguses aren’t that exciting to the vast majority of the population and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t make me eat my words. Good show, Willie!

 

4 1/2 Blue Hills out of 5

 

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Where Wolves Run – Jason Parent

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Jason Parent is kicking out some very impressive material here lately and Where Wolves Run is absolutely phenomenal. Set in the old country, young Konrad watches from the hiding place under the Bavarian cottage floor as his mother is torn apart by unknown hairy beasts. Trapped and unable to see exactly what happened, his father rescues and enlightens him about the events that unfolded. Werewolves. Unknown to Konrad, his father has been hunting them for years and it’s time to train his son to help avenge his dead mother.

Where Wolves Run has the feel of the Lon Chaney Jr classics from the Universal Days. I loved the setting of old Bavaria and I didn’t want the story to end. Parent does a great job at taking something old and giving us something new. Grab this quick read and experience it for yourself.

 

5 Silver Daggers out of 5

 

This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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