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




Bone White by Ronald Malfi

Bone White - Ronald Malfi

Bone White has done something that few thrillers have done to me in years....left me white knuckled. With a chilling atmosphere that has one Hell of a lot more going for it than just the temperature in the aptly named town of Dread's Hand, Alaska.

With a deft hand, Malfi weaves a contemporary thriller with primal fear, paying homage, in my humble opinion, to Algernon Blackwood and his classic The Wendigo. And raising the bar, not to mention the hairs on the back of my neck in the process.


Highly recommended.

The Fisherman by John Langan

The Fisherman - John Langan

Abe and Dan, coworkers, with nothing in common but their grief, find the bond of friendship and solace in the peaceful hobby of fishing the streams in upstate New York. Then Dan suggests Dutchman's Creek. Although Abe is unfamiliar with this waterway, he is more than willing to give it a go.
When one of the locals hears of their interest, he feels the need to tell them the legend of Dutchman's Creek, and why it is avoided.
Assuming it's no more than a colorful piece of folklore, a fish story as it were, they head for Dutchman's Creek......where they find a darkness deeper than any body of water, one that promises for a price.

Langan has written a fantastic novel, at turns achingly human, and gutwrenchingly horrifying. A grand tale of cosmic folklore that would have done Algernon Blackwood or Arthur Machen proud.

Highest possible recommendation.

Obscura by Joe Hart

Obscura - Joe Hart

In the not so distant future, a lethal pandemic of unknown origin is sweeping the planet. A virulent form of dementia that spreads unchecked to people of all ages, with fatal results. The leading researcher into the contagion, driven by the loss of her husband to this plague, and the heartbreaking signs that her young daughter may be next, finds herself succumbing to addiction as her funding dries up. When an old friend offers her a chance at obtaining unlimited funding for her research, she jumps at the chance.....but there is a catch. NASA has developed a teleportation device that may be the key to interstellar travel, but the test subjects are falling victim to a similar affliction. All she has to do is travel to their space station, help discover a cure, and everything she needs to save her daughter, and the human race, will be hers for the asking.
It's an offer too good to pass up.
But things are not what they are advertised to be, as another form of death stalks the station, and deception shadows everything and everyone involved. She finds herself struggling with demons both internal and external as she struggles to accomplish her mission and save the one thing that means the world to her.

Hart enters the arena once ruled by Michael Crichton with this engaging thriller, and proves himself more than a match for the past master of science based thrillers, bringing a powerful human factor to his tale, along with lingering questions about the fate of the human race in the face of evolving biological threats, corporate dirty dealing, and the dark underbelly of medical ethics.....along with a talent for sustained white knuckle suspense.

Highly recommended.

This was an eARC from Netgalley.

Ramskull by William Meikle

Ramskull - William Meikle

It started out as a simple nuisance call...a bit of sheep worrying according to a cantankerous old farmer on the remote island of Leita. For Sergeant Dave Wilkes, it was a chance to get out from under some excess paperwork, nothing more. Along with an over eager young constable, he heads out to the island, expecting no more than a day out of the office.

He's going to wish he never left the mainland.

What they find is a community abandoned....signs of horrific violence, some of which disappears in the blink of an eye. When they discover they have been cut off from any and all assistance, or even leaving the island, Sergeant Wilkes sets out to solve the mystery....only to discover that an ancient evil, long forgotten....a force twice thought laid to rest centuries before by one familiar with the powers of darkness, has broken loose once more. An entity that calls out to the unwary, with a power that can't be denied or stopped by bell, book, candle or firearm....a bloodthirsty horror that only Sergeant Wilkes stands against in it's bid to leave Leita and contaminate the entire world.

Grand atmospheric horror with a fine sense of place from Scotland's greatest horror author.

Highly recommended.

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton

Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton

George Harvey Bone is a down on his luck fellow, infatuated with the lovely, yet heartless Netta Longdon, an actress whose only interest in George is taking advantage of his good natured generosity.
But George has a secret. He's slipping into the grip of schizophrenia, suffering blackouts when he has a completely different attitude towards Netta.....he needs to kill her. What follows is the tale of George's downward spiral, as his sanity degenerates and his mental duality battles for control.

Set in 1930s London, Hamilton offers us a bleak view of the lower classes, the drunks, the unemployed and the shiftless, written in engaging prose that may be some of the finest writing I've encountered in quite some time. While his grasp of the facts about schizophrenia may not be completely accurate, he still manages to capture George's descent into madness with a nightmarish quality that rings true, not to mention his ability to transport readers to the less savory side of Earl's Court as war looms on the horizon.

A true classic that should be on every reader's book shelf.

Highest possible recommendation.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

The Last Days of Jack Sparks - Jason Arnopp

Unexpected, unreliable and unputdownable, this one had me laughing out loud....then glancing over my shoulder at the shadows. Equal parts smart, sarcastic and spooky as Hell.

Highly recommended!

Death in the Air by Kate Winkler Dawson

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City - Kate Winkler Dawson

In December of 1952, a brutal winter and inferior heating coal collided with London's infamous fogs to produce a killer smog so lethal, it took the lives of thousands and literally strangled a city. Meanwhile, serial killer John Reginald Christie was adding to the body count, hiding his victims about his home and property.
Kate Winkler Dawson does a masterful job of weaving the stories of these two different harbingers of death on the streets of London, and displaying how each impacted that city in near equal measure, and left their filthy fingerprints on the pages of it's history.
Extensively researched and beautifully written, this book proves that history can be as engaging as any fictional work.

Highly recommended.


The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror - William Meikle

The Ghost Club: an informal gathering of the literary icons of the Victorian Age. The price of admission...a dark tale told by each member.
William Meikle has not only offered up 14 lost tales by this illustrious group, he has done something that raises him to a "Victorian Voice" in his own right, and surely an honorary member welcome to his place with them. No author has the talent to give voice to the dearly departed quite like Mr.Meikle. The man has a full blown author seance in his head. He even gave me pause with authors I consider myself wholly familiar with.
THE GHOST CLUB more than earns it's place next to the classics on any horror purist's book shelf, William Meikle has earned a place with the authors of those classics.
A magnificent collection of dark delights.

Highest possible recommendation.

Many thanks to the fine folks at Crystal Lake Publishing for the chance to read and review the e-arc. You've all outdone yourselves.

Chills by Mary SanGiovanni

Chills - Mary SanGiovanni


When a rogue late season snow storm cuts off the town of Colby, Connecticut, the weather proves to be the least of problems for the stranded locals. Bodies are turning up in the snow, victims of ritual murder and something far worse. Joining forces with an enigmatic occult crime expert, police detective Jack Glazier finds himself in a race against time, for as the snow rises, so does the body count....and the bizarre goes off the charts. A cult has come to Colby, one with the keys needed to unleash an unspeakable horror upon the small town...and the world.

A fast paced horror/police procedural, populated with well rounded characters, an intriguing new spin on Lovecraftian style Mythos building, and enough chills to cut your air conditioning bills, SanGiovanni's latest delivers.

Highly recommended.

This was an eARC from Netgalley.

Expected publication: September 27th 2016 by Kensington Books/Lyrical Underground

The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea

The Jersey Devil - Hunter Shea


This creature feature novel should come with an extra large bucket of popcorn....recalling the Saturday afternoon monster movies of my youth, with a healthy dash of "Die Hard" style mayhem thrown in. Pure, escapist fun.

When the legendary Jersey Devil returns to it's old stomping grounds, the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, all Hell breaks loose, as the once elusive creature is now hunting....and it may not be alone.

Only the Willet clan, all four generations of them, dare to challenge the Devil's reign of terror, to end a family curse. And the Willets are ready for war. Joined by a cryptozoologist, they head into the Pine Barrens armed to the teeth to face a legend.
And that may just be exactly where it wants them.

Hunter Shea brings his own spin to the Beast of the Barrens, expanding on the original legend with terrifying results, while peopling his novel with characters that are truly characters.

Non-stop, fast paced fun from the first page to the last.

Highly recommended.

Expected publication: August 30th 2016 by Pinnacle

This was an eArc from Netgalley.

Cast a Cold Eye by Alan Ryan

Cast a Cold Eye - Alan Ryan


Cast a Cold Eye is a perfect storm of a novel, bringing together atmosphere, location and mystery in one of the finest ghost stories it has been my pleasure to read.

An American author travels to a remote village in Ireland to gather background for a book on the Irish Famine, and discovers that the past is closer than he thinks.....and it does not lie quietly.

A beautifully constructed example of literary ghost story that doesn't burn creeps up on you like the mists off the moors, slow and relentless, running chill fingers down the back of your neck. The suspense builds just as slowly, ratcheting up the reader's unease to the breaking point.

Kudos to Valancourt Books for bringing this masterwork by an underappreciated author back into print.

Highly recommended.

Babylon Terminal by Greg F. Gifune

Babylon Terminal - Greg F. Gifune


Greg Gifune takes his signature psychological horror into a place where dark urban fantasy meets science fiction in his latest book.....where a man whose job it is to track and terminate runners who dare to follow a dream that speaks of a Promised Land far from the City....a man who now must track down his wife before another bountyhunter reaches her first, across a landscape that is at turns hallucinatory and nightmarish, a no man's land of no-when and never-where....
This one reminded me of BLADE RUNNER, but if you cornered me, I couldn't tell you why beyond it does.

Highly recommended for Gifune fans looking for something completely different.

Mayan Blue by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason

Mayan Blue - Melissa Lason, Michelle L. De La Garza


The debut novel of horror from the shared pen of Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, known collectively as "The Sisters of Slaughter", is an exuberantly over the top gorefest that captures the no holds barred spirit of the early days of the horror boom.

An archeology professor, seeking the truth behind the end of the Mayan civilization, unleashes that truth when he unwittingly breaks open the seal on the doorway to Xibalba....the realm of the Mayan Lord of Death, hidden deep in the mountains of Georgia.

A fast paced read that captures the feel of a 70s horror movie, while offering up a myth system that is so colorfully different and complex, it grabs your attention.....and yanks it out your nose. The Sisters' shared imagination is a thing of wonder, and they let it run wild in these pages, creating imagery that will splatter blood across your nightmares for a long time to come. Yeah, this one gets nasty......but ain't that what we're here for?

While there are points where this novel is obviously a first effort, the Sisters' writing is near perfect, seamless as they work in concert, raising Mayan Blue above the pack of debut authors.

The Sisters of Slaughter are authors to watch.....and I know I will be. Grab a copy of Mayan Blue and tell me I'm wrong.

Highly recommended.

A Time of Torment by John Connolly

A Time of Torment: A Charlie Parker Thriller - John Connolly


Let me begin by stating that I do not rate John Connolly against other thriller authors. It's simply not done. I rate John Connolly against John Connolly. His work stands alone in the field, and even a good John Connolly book is head and shoulders above anything else currently being written in the genre.

That being said, A Time of Torment is, in my humble opinion, the weakest in the Charlie Parker series. A man who stopped a pair of bizarre killers, only to have his life systematically taken apart, his reputation destroyed, falsely imprisoned for the lowest of crimes, and targeted by a brutal group intent on turning his incarceration into a living Hell.
Finally freed, he knows his days are numbered, and he turns to Charlie Parker to expose his tormentors, the deadly conspiracy that stems from an isolated community known as The Cut, and the dark secret it hides at it's heart.....the entity known as The Dead King.
An engaging enough plot, and a faster than usual read, with a strong start.....Parker forming an uneasy alliance with the Collector, one based on the threat of Louis, in order to use his nemesis against those Charlie hunts.....and a powerful finish, where Charlie's daughter, Sam, displays her growing talents to devastating effect, showcasing her cold, lethal intelligence.
But in between these points lies the problem.....the main characters of the series, Charlie, Louis and Angel, are mere shadows drifting in and out of the story, and the tale suffers the lack of heart, humor and depth they normally bring to the table.

Surely just a stumble in a series that raised the bar on thrillers.

As always, I look forward to the next book in the series with my enthusiasm undimmed.

This was an eARC from Netgalley.

The Complex by Brian Keene

The Complex - Brian Keene


When it comes to pedal to the metal, no brakes, balls to the wall survivalist horror, Brian Keene is the master of disaster.
Now, I'm not a big fan of survivalist horror, or splatterpunk in general, as I tend to stick to the "quiet" side of the genre, but I know who Me. Keene is and when my book buddy Chris K. offered me an eARC of The Complex in exchange for an honest review, I figured it was time to give Brian a try.
Unholy Hell, but the man can write!
The action takes off without warning, and reason goes out the window, as the residents of an apartment complex find themselves under siege by hordes of naked, rabid lunatics, and doesn't stop until you hit the back cover wreathed in the smoke of smouldering pages. While this tale may appear to tread familiar ground for fans of survival horror, Keene raises the bar with intelligent plotting, realistic characters, a fine grasp of the community dynamic that exists in society these days, the realization that the worst incidents of random violence have no rational explanations, and two of the most interesting individuals I've come across in a while......the serial killer/vigilante of the supernatural known as "The Exit" and the man mountain of berserk blubber referred to as "Tick Tock". I plan to read more about the former.....and hope to learn more about the latter. This guy makes Chaingang of Rex Miller's classic SLOB look normal.

I must admit, despite the distance that exists between my reading tastes and Mr. Keene's preferred sub-genre, I need to read more of his work. It's that damn good.

Highly recommended.

Redemption Road by John Hart

Redemption Road - John Hart


A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother.

A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.

After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free as deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, a body cools in pale linen…

These are the first pieces in the stunning mosaic that is John Hart's long awaited new novel Redemption Road ....
And that is an oversimplification, for each individual piece is part of it's own mosaic. A complex, rich and textured tale in and of itself. Fuel enough for several novels. But this is a John Hart thriller. Each mosaic is a mosaic piece of it's own, each a tale that fits into the whole in myriad ways, for what each portrays is not what it appears.....
Absorbing, complex and literary, this is a thinking reader's thriller....Hart's writing is pitch perfect and mesmerizing, the pacing is flawless and his characters are human to the core, possessing depths, secrets and denials that ring true.
Truly a masterwork by one of the best in the business.

Highest possible recommendation.

This was an eARC from Netgalley.

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