Reclusive Reads

Where I read and review Dark Fiction, from the classics to the contemporary, while favoring the quietly atmospheric, with side trips into everything from Fantasy and Mystery to the occasional work of non-fiction.

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2016 NetGalley Challenge




The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

The Fourth Monkey - A.J. Barker

For five years, the Fourth Monkey Killer, a pseudo-vigilante serial killer, has reigned terror on the city of Chicago....punishing those he believes "Do evil" by abducting their daughters.
Within days, they receive a small white box...."Hear no evil".
Then a second box...."See no evil".
Then a third...."Speak no evil".

Within two days, the body will be dumped.

The FMK task force have nothing. He leaves no evidence. No clues. And most disturbing of all, every target he has chosen.....have done evil.

When a man is killed by a bus, the lead investigator of the task force gets a call. The unidentifiable man was carrying one of FMK's boxes. The first of three.
FMK may be dead, but he has left a living victim who is still in danger.
He was also carrying a diary, one that may reveal who he was.....and what made him.

Was it an accident....or suicide?
Is the diary the key to finding FMK's final victim.....or a red herring written by the most unreliable narrator of them all?

Is this even FMK?

The hunt is on.....and the game hasn't even come close to ending.

Barker has written a thriller that goes beyond breakneck....there are no brakes. It twists so hard, so leaves the reader with whiplash....and keeps them guessing right to the final sentence.

Highly recommended.

The Purification Ceremony by Mark T. Sullivan

The Purification Ceremony - Mark T. Sullivan

A group of deer hunters in the winter wasteland of northern British Columbia find the tables turned on them, as they are hunted down, one by one, and left gutted like the game they once sought.

The prey of a maniac who moves like the winter wind....swift, unseen and lethal.

Their only chance of survival lies in the hands of Diana "Little Crow" Jackman, a Native American with a troubled past, who must call upon the tracking skills taught to her by her father.....and do the unthinkable....hunt down a hunter.

A well written, well paced thriller that delivers more chills than a Canadian winter...and not just from the cold. The addition of Native American lore gives the novel an added depth, highlighting the chasm between cultures....and between civilized people and the rabidly primal.

Highly recommended.

Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder

Hanging Hill - Mo Hayder

Mo Hayder never fails to deliver, and this novel is no exception.

When a popular teen is brutally raped and murdered, a detective throws caution, and possibly her career to the wind, to find the killer. But her personal life is unraveling, and the secrets she thought she left in the past are rising up once more.
Hayder keeps the tension high as two sisters, estranged for years, are brought together by a killer, and people are never who they appear to be.....

Fantastic twists and turns abound......and the last twist....a gut punch.

Highly recommended

Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox

Conan Doyle for the Defence: A Sensational Murder, the Quest for Justice and the World's Greatest Detective Writer - Avishai Margalit

Glasgow, Scotland: 1908
A wealthy, and extremely paranoid elderly woman is brutally murdered in her home. Clues that would prove to even the untrained to be blatantly false lead the police to a suspect, Oscar Slater - immigrant German Jew with a shady reputation. Slater finds himself imprisoned for a life of hard labor in one of Scotland's worst prisons...barely escaping hanging for the crime. After 18 and a half years, and close to suicidal, Slater manages to get a cry for help Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
A well known crusader for justice, despite the blows to his reputation concerning his fascination with the afterlife....and a faked photograph of "fairies", Doyle takes on the case....applying the same investigative tools used by his fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes.
Battling the rabid anti-Semitism and anti-immigration bias that gripped Scotland, and the entire British Isles at the time....along with a police department and prosecutors more willing to frame a man on questionable circumstantial evidence rather than find the real perpetrator, Doyle would spend his final years seeking justice, finally freeing Slater in 1927.

A remarkable work of biography, history and true crime that captures the time and place that this travesty of justice occurred, and revealing the honorable man Doyle was, along with the innate genius for deduction that he was blessed with, a genius that lives on in his most famous creation.

Overall, a highly recommended read...for Doyle fans, Holmes fans, history buffs and true crime aficionados everywhere.

The Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton

Devils Of D Day - Graham Masterton

In July of 1944, 13 mysterious black Allied tanks crossed the bridge into the village of Le Vey, Normandy, and laid waste to the Germans.

12 of those tanks vanished into the mists of history.

The 13th lies rusting where it stopped. And after 35 years it remains, welded shut, sealed with a crucifix and given wide berth by the locals.

Until Dan McCook, an American cartographer making maps of the area for a book on World War II, becomes fascinated by the old relic....and inadvertently unleashes a demonic force intent on reuniting the 13. To wage a war that will bring Hell on Earth.

Masterton flips the old standby of "Nazis tampering with the occult" and drops the responsibility for supernatural weapons on the Allies in this fast, fun read.

Recommended for fans of old school horror.

The Buzzard Zone by Ronald Kelly

The Buzzard Zone - Ronald Kelly

An unknown parasite brings the human race to it's knees....transforming the living into ravenous Biters, ambulatory undead vehicles of infestation and certain death.
The only warning that they are coming....monstrous flocks of buzzards that follow the swarming Biters....feeding on the carnage they leave in their wake.

And people aren't the only living things susceptible to the plague.

Levi Hobbs and his family have managed to survive in his childhood home in the Smoky Mountains. But when their luck finally runs out and the Biters find them, they are forced to flee east, seeking a new safe haven.

But safe places are few and far between. And the Biters aren't the only threat on the road to sanctuary.

Along the way, they will find survivors, decent people fighting for their lives.....and predators who prey on them.

Will they find a place to make a life in a world gone mad......or a place to make a last stand against the inevitable?

Ronald Kelly has written a tense, superior zombie thriller, peopled with characters that are perfectly imperfect. Each bearing the traumas of their own pasts, traumas that surface as the trauma of their battle for survival takes it's toll. Add in a welcome dose of true humanity, and country common sense, you can't help but feel for them....and in doing so, feel the horror of their plight that much more.

And let's not forget appearances by folks that fans of the horror community will recognize immediately.

Ronald Kelly is back....and better than ever.

Highly recommended.

The Tribe by Bari Wood

The Tribe - Bari Wood

A well written thriller concerning the mysterious survivors of the Belzec death camp during World War II, and the deadly secret that protects them still 40 years later.

Interesting use of Jewish folklore in a contemporary setting, but reads more like a thriller, or horror lite.

3.5 stars

The Window by Glenn Rolfe

The Window - Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Glenn Rolfe

After the divorce of his parents, James Curry finds himself torn away from the town he grew up in, his friends, the girl he loves, saddled with a stepfather he can't stand....and worst of all, missing his dad.

When his mom finally caves in, and allows him to spend the last month of summer vacation back home with his father, James is thrilled to see his old friends, his girl, and his dad.

But things haven't been going well for his father. Not for a while. In ways that James finds increasingly disturbing. Turning to his friends for help, he unwittingly puts them all in mortal danger from forces none of them can accept or believe.

Rolfe has written an engaging coming of age horror novel, peopled with believable, fully fleshed characters, a wonderful retro 80's feel, and unrelenting terror that he unleashes on the reader with both barrels.

Highly recommended.

Mister Jack by Chris Kosarich

Mister Jack - Chris Kosarich

When three teens set out on Halloween night to revive an old tradition, vandalizing a house on the outskirts of town....a house that belongs to an old woman who some believe is a witch, and most believe to have passed away decades ago, they are in for a shock. For the old woman is alive and well and appears to have been expecting them. The question of whether or not she is a witch remains to be seen.

She greets her visitors with reasonable grace...and a shotgun, then offers to tell them the true story of an urban legend named Mister Jack....and changing four lives forever.

A pitch perfect tale of Halloween, which Kosarich masterfully crafts to touch upon both the classic oral tradition of storytelling and the EC comics style of supernatural revenge stories.

A perfect story for Halloween night....or any night you need a little dose of the Halloween spirit.

Chris Kosarich is an author to watch....I recommend keeping an eye on him.

Highly recommended.

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

Dracul - Clive Barker, Dacre Stoker

Bram Stoker's DRACULA is the iconic cornerstone of vampire fiction and horror literature in general.
Frequently imitated, constantly recreated, never duplicated.

But what inspired Stoker to create the most infamous, immortal vampire of all time? His great-grand nephew, Dacre Stoker and co-author J.D. Barker have the answer.

DRACUL is a prequel of sorts to Bram Stoker's DRACULA, based upon the 100 or so pages edited from the original manuscript and Bram's own notes....and, I hope, a great deal of fiction. Because this one brings back the Gothic creep factor of the original in spades....Hell, it's using earth moving equipment.

While growing up in Dublin, 7 year old Bram was a sickly child. Until his nanny Ellen Crone took over his treatment. Brought back literally from Death's doorway, Bram begins to a series of mysterious deaths in the village all seem to be connected to Ellen, whose odd behavior has become a subject of concern for Bram and his sister Matilda.....especially when the nanny suddenly vanishes without a trace.

Years later, Matilda would bring news to Bram that she has seen Ellen Crone again....and a nightmarish horror from the past descends upon them once more.

A heady Gothic blend of fact, fiction and Irish folklore, DRACUL earns the right to be shelved with the original DRACULA, while Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker deserve kudos for creating a literary horror novel that brings depth to Bram's original masterpiece, while still being strong enough to stand on it's own.

I received this hardcover ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Many thanks to Ken Kusisto and G.P. Putnam's Sons for the opportunity.

The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow - Fiona Barton

A thoroughly engaging mystery/thriller concerning a missing little girl, the prime suspect who suddenly dies in an accident, and the one person who may hold the key to what truly happened...the suspect's widow.
Expertly weaving between the past and the present, through the viewpoints of the grieving mother of the missing child, the man suspected of the kidnapping, his widow, the detective who has dedicated his career to the case, and an investigative reporter willing to do anything to capture the headlines, the story grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go until the final page.
And it kept me guessing the entire way.
A truly remarkable debut novel. I'll be back for more.
Highly recommended.

The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman

The Lesser Dead - Christopher Buehlman

In 1978, New York City was a dark, dangerous place.
Evil walked the night streets. Every night.
Lurking among the human predators, there are vampires.
And something worse.

The Lesser Dead is a stunningly original and chilling addition to the vampire mythos, set in a time and place that was the perfect hunting ground..... the deep tunnels below New York, where even the homeless fear to tread, the hidden places within bridges, the castle in Central Park....all the places where angels feared to tread....and actually exist.

Buehlman pumps new blood into vampire lore, with disturbing variations on the undead, and their survival habits.

A must-read for vampire fans, or any horror looking for something different.

Highly recommended.

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Beneath the Skin: The Sam Hunter Case Files by Jonathan Maberry

Beneath the Skin: The Sam Hunter Case Files - Jonathan Maberry

I'm a huge fan of horror fiction involving private investigators and occult detectives, so this collection really hit the spot.

Sam Hunter is a private investigator who happens to be a member of a long line of werewolves who battle evil in all it's forms. A line that got a pass from the Inquisition.
He treats his clients like one of his own, summons his wild side when things get hairy.....and always tries to eat before shifting.

With cases ranging from vampires and werewolf super soldiers, to a boogieman in a child's closet, Hunter won't give in until the fur stops flying.

And as an added bonus, there are appearances by Joe Ledger, Limbus Inc. and a visit to the town of Pine Deep!

Doorbells at Dusk: Halloween Stories edited by Evans Light

Doorbells at Dusk: Halloween Stories - Adam   Light, Gregor Xane, Josh Malerman, Jason  Parent, Evans Light

A stand out Halloween anthology that delivers a trick or treat bag full of tasty chills.
Editor Evans Light has gathered a coven of 14 excellent tales from some brilliant writers, and kept the quality high.

Personal favorites include:

THE FRIENDLY MAN by Thomas Vaughn, and
THE RYE MOTHER by Curtis Lawson

Highly recommended.

*I received a paperback ARC in exchange for an honest review*

They Feed by Jason Parent

They Feed - Jason  Parent

All Hell is about to break loose in Galveston State Park tonight, as a wrongly accused man, a woman bent on bloody revenge, and a bunch of frat boys out looking for trouble discover they aren't alone in the dark.
For there are things out there.
Things that shouldn't exist.
Things that defy description.

Jason Parent has written a masterful creature feature that keeps the tension high, the gore flowing, and offers up a unique pack of "What the Hell is that?!?" monstrosities that will keep you out of the woods on a permanent basis.

Highly recommended.

This was an eARC from Netgalley.

Saying Uncle by Greg F. Gifune

Saying Uncle - Greg F. Gifune

A powerful coming of age tale about family, the ties that bind and the secrets that sever them.

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