Excerpt: THE FRIGHTENERS by Peter Laws (Icon Books)

LawsP-TheFrightenersUKI hadn’t heard of Peter Laws‘s new book before the publicist reached out to me. It is the story of a minister’s investigation into our fascination with the macabre, scary and horrific. I thought it sounded quite interesting, and so today Icon Books have allowed me to share with you an excerpt from The Frighteners. But first, here’s the synopsis:

The Frighteners follows the quest of Peter Laws, a Baptist minister with a penchant for the macabre, to understand why so many people love things that are spooky, morbid and downright repellent. He meets vampires, hunts werewolves in Hull, talks to a man who has slept on a mortuary slab to help him deal with a diagnosis, and is chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac through a farmhouse full of hanging bodies.

Staring into the darkness of a Transylvanian night, he asks: What is it that makes millions of people seek to be disgusted and freaked out? And, in a world that worships rationality and points an accusing finger at violent video games and gruesome films, can an interest in horror culture actually give us safe ways to confront our mortality? Might it even have power to re-enchant our jaded world?

Grab your crucifixes, pack the silver bullets, and join the Sinister Minister on his romp into our morbid curiosities.

Read on for an excerpt from the chapter “Sisters”…

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Review: NEED TO KNOW by Karen Cleveland (Ballantine / Doubleday / Bantam)

ClevelandK-NeedToKnowUSA fast-paced, gripping spy thriller

In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, CIA analyst Vivian Miller uncovers a dangerous secret that will threaten her job, her family — and her life. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her — her job, her husband, even her four children — is threatened.‎

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

This novel received a lot of pre-publication buzz. Russian sleeper cells infiltrating the CIA; movie rights sold to Universal Pictures, with Charlize Theron attached; and lots of praise from other thriller and mystery authors. All of this during a political environment characterized (in part) by Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. So, with expectations high, I’m glad to report that Need to Know exceeded my hopes. A gripping novel that I devoured in two sittings. Continue reading

Quick Review: A MAP OF THE DARK by Karen Ellis (Mulholland)

EllisK-1-AMapOfTheDarkThe first novel in the Searchers series

A girl missing

A woman, searching

A killer, planning…

If you’re lost she’ll find you

But who will save her?

Elsa Myers is smart, determined, and gifted with an extraordinary ability to find missing children. When vulnerable teenager Ruby disappears from Queens, she is put on the case.

But Elsa’s skills are rooted in her own troubled past. She is haunted by her mother’s murder, her father is dying, and her relationship with her sister is crumbling. As the case begins to look hopeless, it becomes more and more personal, tangling with the traumatic history she has worked so hard to hide.

As the darkness gathers around her, Elsa has to make a choice: can she save Ruby, if it means losing herself?

A Map of the Dark is the first in an interesting new series from Karen Ellis that introduces us to Elsa Myers, an FBI agent struggling with her own inner demons. While this is a novel far more about the protagonist than it is the crime she and her colleagues are investigating, I enjoyed the novel, and I think the series has promise. Continue reading

Upcoming: PRIEST OF BONES by Peter McLean (Jo Fletcher Books/Ace)

McLean-PriestOfBonesUKIn October, Jo Fletcher Books (UK) and Ace Books (US) are due to publish the new novel by Peter McLeanPriest of Bones. The first novel in the author’s new series, The War of the Rose Throne, I think it sounds great. This has been variously described as a must for fans of Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch. I think, given the synopsis, I think I’d add Daniel Polansky to that list (his Low Town series looks to me to be in the similar sub-genre of fantasy crime/noir). Here’s the synopsis:

‘Sixty-five thousand battle-shocked, trained killers came home to no jobs, no food and the plague. What did Her Majesty think was going to happen?’

Tomas Piety takes his duties seriously: as a soldier, as a priest of Our Lady of Eternal Sorrows and as a leader of men. He has come home from the war to reclaim his family business, to provide for his men and to ensure the horrors of Abingon can never happen in Ellinburg.

But things have changed: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg — his people — have run out of food and hope and places to hide. With his best friend Bloody Anne, his war-damaged brother Jochan and his new gang, the Pious Men, Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his.

And as Tomas is dragged into a web of political intrigue by the sinister Queen’s Men, forced to work against the foreign infiltrators lurking in the backstreet taverns, brothels and gambling dens of the Stink, one thing becomes clear.

The war has just begun.

I think this sounds great. Really looking forward to reading it. McLean’s first series, The Burned Man, is published by Angry Robot Books.

Also on CR: Interview with Peter McLean (2015)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: MISSING PERSON by Sarah Lotz (Mulholland/Hodder)

LotsS-MissingPersonUSA new novel by Sarah Lotz! Unfortunately, it’s still pretty far away: Missing Person is due out in April 2019… Nevertheless, I spotted it in the Mulholland Books catalogue, and decided to feature it on the site. It is also due out in the UK, to be published by Hodder in March 2019.

Reclusive Irish bookseller Shaun Ryan has always believed that his older brother, Teddy, died in a car accident. It’s only on his mother’s deathbed that he learns the truth: Teddy, who was gay, fled the Catholic, deeply conservative County Wicklow for New York decades earlier. Shaun finds no sign of him in New York or anywhere else–until he comes across the unsolved murder of a John Doe whose description matches Teddy’s.

Desperate for information, Shaun tracks down Chris Guzman, a woman who runs a website dedicated to matching missing persons cases with unidentified bodies. Through Chris’s site, a group of online cold case fanatics connect Teddy with the notorious “Boy in the Dress” murder, believed to be one of many committed by a serial killer targeting gay men.

But who are these cold case fanatics, and how do they know so much about a case that left the police and the FBI stumped? With investigators, amateurs, and one sadistic killer on a collision course, Missing Person is Sarah Lotz at her most thrilling and terrifying.

Sarah Lotz is the author of a number of superb novels, including The Three (on sale in the UK at the time of writing), Day Four and The White Road. Lotz’s novels are published in the UK by Hodder.

Also on CR: Interview with Sarah Lotz (2014); Reviews of The Three and Day Four

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Upcoming: THE RISE OF ANDREW JACKSON by David S. Heidler & Jeanne T. Heidler (Basic Books)

Heidler-RiseOfAndrewJacksonUSIn October, Basic Books are due to publish the new book by David S. and Jeanne T. HeidlerThe Rise of Andrew Jackson. I have mixed feelings about Andrew Jackson — he was a towering, important figure during one of my favourite periods of American history, whose election helped to fundamentally alter the way presidential elections are conducted.

Generally, though, I have found it to be the case that if you’ve read one book about Jackson, you’ve read them all. Many of his papers were lost in a fire at the Hermitage, and he was by no means as prolific as many of his peers and other presidents. I am not Jackson’s biggest fan. However, the Heidlers’ new book caught my attention because of its focus on the propagandists and journalists who helped Jackson polish his image, to scrub his decidedly unattractive personal history and general manner.

The story of Andrew Jackson’s improbable ascent to the White House, centered on the handlers and propagandists who made it possible

Andrew Jackson was volatile and prone to violence, and well into his forties his sole claim on the public’s affections derived from his victory in a thirty-minute battle at New Orleans in early 1815. Yet those in his immediate circle believed he was a great man who should be president of the United States.

Jackson’s election in 1828 is usually viewed as a result of the expansion of democracy. Historians David and Jeanne Heidler argue that he actually owed his victory to his closest supporters, who wrote hagiographies of him, founded newspapers to savage his enemies, and built a political network that was always on message. In transforming a difficult man into a paragon of republican virtue, the Jacksonites exploded the old order and created a mode of electioneering that has been mimicked ever since.

I’m really looking forward to reading The Rise of Andrew Jackson. The book is published by Basic Books in late October 2018, and will be available in the UK. The Heidlers are also the authors of Henry Clay: The Essential American, among others.

Follow the Authors: Website

Excerpt: IF TOMORROW COMES by Nancy Kress (Tor)

KressN-TK2-IfTomorrowComesUSToday, we have an excerpt from Nancy Kress‘s latest novel, If Tomorrow Comes. Selected as a March SFF must-read by io9, Kirkus and the Verge, it is the sequel to the critically-acclaimed Tomorrow’s Kin. If Tomorrow Comes is published by Tor Books. Here’s the synopsis:

Ten years after the Aliens left Earth, humanity succeeds in building a ship, Friendship, to follow them home to Kindred. Aboard are a crew of scientists, diplomats, and a squad of Rangers to protect them. But when the Friendship arrives, they find nothing they expected. No interplanetary culture, no industrial base — and no cure for the spore disease.

A timeslip in the apparently instantaneous travel between worlds has occurred and far more than ten years have passed.

Once again scientists find themselves in a race against time to save humanity and their kind from a deadly virus while a clock of a different sort runs down on a military solution no less deadly to all. Amid devastation and plague come stories of heroism and sacrifice and of genetic destiny and free choice, with its implicit promise of conscious change.

And now, read on for the first chapter…

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