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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Fear by Ronald Kelly

Fear - Ronald Kelly

For 10 year old Jeb Sweeney, life in the backwoods town of Pikesville, Tennessee in 1946 is bittersweet.
Growing up without a mom, a father left "simple minded" by shell shock, and a sick grandmother...becoming an adult too early can be a trial.
But he has his friends, his first love.....

And then, he doesn't.

Something horrific has descended upon Jeb's life....a legendary creature from the dark place they call Fear County....it's come to feed, and it has taken his girl, his friends and his dog.

Jeb is about to journey down a dark path....to a place angels fear to tread...to find the witch woman who holds the secret to stopping the terror ripping through his world. Accompanied by his father and a legendary bluesman, Jeb is heading into the heart of a nightmare....welcome to Fear County.

A pitch perfect coming of age/small town horror novel, Kelly's writing brings the people, the time and the place alive with a style of Southern storytelling only he can do. And offer up a monster, and a place, that will rent space in your nightmares for a long time coming.

Highly recommended, FEAR has earned a place on my shelves alongside BOY'S LIFE, SUMMER OF NIGHT, and MIDNIGHT RAIN.

Go get some FEAR for yourself....and grab everything else Ron Kelly has ever written. You'll thank me sooner than later...


Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America by Les Standiford & Joe Matthews

Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America - Joe Matthews, Les Standiford

The abduction and brutal murder of Adam Walsh went unsolved for 27 years. This is the story of the determination of one dedicated detective who would not let the case rest until a monster was brought to justice.

A powerful, well written account that is heartbreaking, infuriating, horrifying and finally inspiring.

Highly recommended.


Monk Eastman: The Gangster Who Became a War Hero by Neil Hanson

Monk Eastman: The Gangster Who Became a War Hero - Neil Hanson

Pet shop owner.
Petty thief.
Pimp.
Street brawler.
Leader of a street gang 2,000 strong, the most feared on the Lower East Side of New York City by 1900.
Muscle for the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine.
Convict.

A colorful life, and worthy of a biography....but that was only half of Monk Eastman's story.

Having lost his criminal empire while in prison, he would enlist and go off to fight in World War 1.....where his talent for street fighting, and fearless nature would see him cited for bravery, hailed as a hero upon his return home, and his crimes pardoned.

But Monk's past was never far away....and gaining on him.

An engaging biography of a truly unique individual, and a well researched history of both Old New York.

Highly recommended for fans of The Gangs of New York, or anyone who enjoys a well written biography.


The Hymn by Graham Masterton

The Hymn - Graham Masterton

A series of deaths by self immolation lead to a cult that promises immortality by fire....a cult with ties to the Third Reich and its twisted fascination with racial purity and the occult.

Classic Masterton at his best, blending the racial insanity of the Nazis, Norse mythology and a fast paced horror tale that delivers in spades.

Originally titled: THE BURNING

Highly recommended.



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 fast....it 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 out....to 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 flourish.....as 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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