Reading Sanctum: Potpourri #3

Reading Sanctum: Potpourri is one of our continuing features of quick cut book reviews to help you find some otherwise innocuous books that might have escaped your attention. As a huge library/book reader geek, I love sharing stories about the books I am reading. So if you love books like I love books, then you just might love this feature, too.

Hill Haven Creeps and the Halloween King is a novel about a Halloween Carnival coming to town. The All Hallows Eve Midnight Travelling Spook Show, has arrived for a one-night only festival event. Fliers and posters have been attached to car windshields and lamp posts apparently overnight. Tents and concession stands have been erected seemingly without carnie personnel. Carnival rides and fairgrounds are readied, but quiet, waiting.

The novel has remarkably similar story beats and vibes to the various iterations of Stephen King’s It. There are six 12-year-old boys, the misfit protagonists, very much like the Losers Club of King’s work. The Halloween King is similar to a pumpkin-faced Pennywise. He reveals himself to each character uniquely reflecting the fears of each child, and exploiting it to manipulate and feed on the fears of each child.

On Halloween night, the veil between reality and nightmare is thin. Fears, hopes, and dreams lie so close to the surface of the waking world that fictions can become truth with the mere whisper of the choice, “Yes.” The Carnival only shows itself every 50 years or so. So choose wisely.

Hill Haven Creeps maybe riffing or paying homage to King’s narrative, but it does it well. A great Halloween story.

Four out of 5 Grey Geeks for this horror story.

Last year, I bought this book in a group lot on eBay with 50 other “mystery” novels. I set this one aside immediately as an “I’ll probably never read it.” The bland, almost all-white cover was boring and the back cover blurb didn’t call to me. However, I put it on my bookshelf and took it down last month when on the blog, we had Geektoberfest Horror Month.

Somehow, while sitting on my shelf, in the midst of all those black covers, the white cover called to me. I revisited the back cover, and saw that this was a unique find. The novel defied genre classification as a mash-up. This is a ghost story. It is a novel about a women’s empowerment. It is about two people coming together to help each other through traumatic experience.

Joanna Hastings works at a large computer company as a writer of manuals, but when the politics of the grind becomes just another straw that breaks the camels back, she decides to leave her city-life. She rents a shack and continues to write tech manuals in isolation, but she begins to experience dreams that seem more like ghostly visitations. Then a neighbor has his home set on fire, a dead body, and a mystery that appears to stretch back to a muddled past and a small town secret.

The narrative is conveyed in an objective voice that gives nuance to living in a cabin by oneself. Whiteout is exceptionally good until the end where the author contrives the ending, but everything to the very end is really enjoyable. I envision revisiting this book again.

Four out of 5 Grey Geeks for a super imaginative story

Julia Hamill was digging in her garden, removing rocks from the stony ground, when she comes upon a skull. The medical examiner is contacted, but despite the fact that the bone bears the unmistakable marks of murder, it cannot be investigated further because it occurred 90 years ago. This initiates an investigation that transpires in the present but stretches into the past.

This is my first Tess Gerritsen novel. It will not be my last. Gerritsen marries perfectly historical detail with a compelling fictional story. It is horrifyingly realistic with gruesome details.

The story is told in the present, but mostly transpires in the late 1800s with Oliver Wendell Holmes Senior playing a pivotal role in the mystery. Gerritsen is telling two stories simultaneously with bitter-sweet reverence and respect for her characters. She situates us in both timelines with deft skill and completes both stories in a way I will not soon forget. Brilliant!

Five out of five Grey Geeks for a compellingly told story.

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