Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

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IF IT BLEEDS

The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas.

The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King’s own admission one of his most beloved characters, a “quirky walk-on” who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King’s favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won’t please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters—and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you’ve got the general idea. “Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same,” King writes, “and once again she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard.” In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms—which makes them all the scarier.

Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

Pub Date: April 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3797-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A twisty, timey-wimey roller coaster that morphs seamlessly from treasure hunt to conspiracy thriller to escape room.

RABBITS

The creator of the absorbing podcast Rabbits expands its mythology about an ancient and potentially deadly game.

Debut novelist Miles is known for creating hit podcasts, and while this peculiar augmentation doesn’t quite stick the landing, its premise is spellbinding. Its namesake podcast is a missing persons mystery, but this sidequel digs far deeper into the mysteries surrounding the clandestine alternative-reality game at its heart. The narrator identifies himself only as K, and he’s fascinated by any threads of information about the unnamed game, known to players colloquially as “Rabbits.” Egged on by a video-arcade owner named the Magician, K, his girlfriend, Chloe, and pal Baron search out more information about the game as things get more dangerous for all of them. There’s not much to go on: The first recorded modern instance of the game emerged in 1959; a fractured recording lays out a few more clues, and readers learn more from interstitial notes by Hazel, the winner of the eighth iteration. Things start getting serious when K is approached in the arcade by the alleged winner of the sixth game, Alan Scarpio, “a gazillionaire playboy who hangs out with Johnny Depp,” who nonchalantly says, “Something is wrong with Rabbits, and I need you to help me fix it.” It’s believed that the game’s 10th iteration has ended, and a new round seems to be beginning when players solve a series of obscure riddles, followed by a cryptic pronunciation: “The door is open.” While not as pop-culture inundated as Ready Player One, the book nods to eccentric influences like the urban legend Polybius, about a mind-altering arcade game; the novels Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski; and, most tellingly, the cult movie Donnie Darko: “The Venn diagram of people interested in Rabbits and in Richard Kelly’s sci-fi thriller from 2001 is essentially just a circle.”

A twisty, timey-wimey roller coaster that morphs seamlessly from treasure hunt to conspiracy thriller to escape room.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984819-65-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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