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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All of Pendergast’s adventures are weird and wonderful fun, and this is no exception.

BLOODLESS

FBI Special Agent Pendergast and his cohorts face great peril as they try to find out what’s bleeding a Georgia city dry.

In 1971, the mysterious hijacker D.B. Cooper parachutes from a commercial airliner with a bundle of cash in the remote northwest and is never heard from again. A half-century later, Aloysius X.L. Pendergast and colleague Armstrong Coldmoon are sent to Savannah, Georgia, to investigate a “most peculiar incident”: a body has washed ashore with nary a drop of blood left in the corpse. A reader’s first thought might be What’s that got to do with an old hijacking? Leave it to the imaginations of Preston and Child to eventually make the delightfully strange connection. Pendergast looks every bit the stereotypical undertaker, not at all fitting the FBI mold. He brings along his adult “ward,” Constance Greene, who brings her stiletto everywhere she goes. Meanwhile, bloodless bodies accumulate. Who could possibly be committing these frightful atrocities? And why only in Savannah? That one’s easy: because it’s a spooky old city “with its gnarled trees and crooked houses,” and everything about the plot is spooky and surreal. A film crew prepares to create a phony documentary in a graveyard using smoke machines and showing callous disregard for the dead. A scheming U.S. senator frets that the rapid escalation in ghastly violence will hurt his reelection prospects, and he pressures the FBI for a rapid solution. Unfortunately, the killer makes an unholy mess of the city, sucking out its Southern charm along with plenty of blood. He—she—let’s settle on it—turns the tale into one of more horror than crime. Without Pendergast’s perspicacity, Coldmoon’s competence, and Constance’s cojones (figuratively, of course), that old city of mint juleps would be a smoking hole in the ground. And readers wouldn’t learn about D.B. Cooper’s fate. The authors’ imaginations run unfettered as they travel to unearthly locales, but in the end it comes down to beleaguered Savannah.

All of Pendergast’s adventures are weird and wonderful fun, and this is no exception.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3670-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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