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We want to introduce to you some spine-chilling tales that inspire concern, fear, or terror... of course accompanied with a delicious feeling of excitement. Walk on the darker side of life, discover wicked characters, eerie locations, and plots that encourage goosebumps to skitter down your arms. If you feel the need to leave the light on, or find yourself a little jumpy after reading these books, just don’t blame us!
The ominously significant title of ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ slashes through the delicate vibrancy of the cover, summing up the contents beautifully. 18 short stories and two poems, steaming with life, death, passion, regret and the occasional gnashing of twisted, gnarly fangs. I absolutely loved Stephen King’s short introductions to each tale, almost as much as the stories themselves. The story behind the story reveals snippets of information, of reasoning, the why and how. This is a wonderfully diverse collection from full on fantasy, to possibilities and practicalities, and yet there are links to be discovered. Some tales made me shiver, others raise a smirking eyebrow, they all though, set my mind pondering and questing, and personal favourites were Afterlife and The Little Green God of Agony. These are knowing, crafty, sharp stories, ready to catch you unaware and to give your imagination a hammering - in other words, they are fabulous. ~ Liz Robinson
Highly Recommended. More psychological thriller than strict horror I nevertheless wanted to include this because, primarily, it’s a wonderful book but also because it comes with genuine, if non-supernatural, thrills. This is a tight, claustrophobic and gripping tale centred around a group of teenaged female friends. Pinborough, a one-time teacher, has a deft and exact touch when it comes to depicting the voices, enthusiasms and fears of teenage friendship. And hatred. She’s also adept at using the pervasive nature of social media to power and inform her plotting and draw the tension tight around her story. Natasha is found in a freezing river on the edge of a small town. It quickly becomes clear that she died for 13 minutes. What is less clear is how or why she died. Natasha has no clear memory of how she got in the river but as her friends gather around her in hospital it’s obvious that someone does know. What follows is brilliantly judged, twisting journey into the lies, loves and hatreds that can exist in the pressure cooker of female teenage friendship groups. This is an empathetic novel that touches on bullying and power-plays, on the heightened emotions of youth. Pinborough maintains the tension impeccably to leave you always on the verge of knowing what’s happened but never being quite certain. This is perfect for anyone who enjoys the novels of Gillian Flynn or who loved the film Heathers.
A fascinating and disturbing premise that has the ability to swing a profound sledgehammer into your consciousness. Set in what feels like a very possible future, Carl is isolated in a remote Scottish village and finds himself mentally as well as physically detached and confined. It takes a little while to settle in to this story, to get used to the writing style and understand the world you are in; it is worth the wait though. Chapters are grouped into a time period and at first zigzag back and forwards in time. The initial feeling of dislocation feels quite deliberate, it helps you empathise and feel a connection with the village community. There is a vulnerability to Carl, and while he isn't particularly likeable, he is an intriguing and captivating character. As time passes and Carl begins to understand his surroundings we start to hear from other villagers and they add a shot of positiveness to proceedings. This intense exploration of human instinct and glimpse into an imagined world, is ultimately an interesting and thought-provoking read.
One of our Books of the Year 2016. Shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Fiction and Breakthrough Author Awards 2016. May 2016 Debut of the Month. Winner of Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards 2016. Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2015. Perhaps it's the sheets of rain which fall continuously on The Loney, that " wild and useless length of English coastline", a "strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest", but I've not read so chilling a horror novel for years. The setting for an Easter-time Catholic pilgrimage for Andrew Michael Hurley's teenage narrator, his mentally handicapped brother and a motley collection of parishioners, the dread builds slowly but inexorably, as strange movements from creepy locals start to intrude on the religious retreat, and it becomes clear that while some might be looking "for God in the emerging springtime", others are on the trail of something entirely different. A truly eerie, captivating read, as mysterious and disturbing as its foggy, wet, bleak location. Masterfully pulled off. ~ Alison Flood One of our Books of the Year 2015. "The Loney is not just good. It's great... an amazing piece of fiction." Stephen King Costa Judges' comment: “We all agreed this book is as close to the perfect first novel as you can get.”
An often uncomfortable, overwhelming, yet impressively compelling read. ‘John Crow’s Devil’ originally published in 2005, is the debut novel of Marlon James, Man Booker prize winner for ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’. Apparently James’ debut was rejected 78 times before being published, and personally I had my doubts as I began to read, and yet, and yet… the further I read, the more I felt myself being consumed by this penetrating and provocative novel. Two men, two preachers, battle each other, two women choose sides, while the rest of the village follow the stronger man. An anonymous village voice occasionally comes to the fore, narrating, telling, explaining, speaking with a Jamaican dialect, sometimes using unknown words that somehow make themselves understood. The story weaves between the village voice, clearly, firmly setting the story in stone, yet unexpected words will make you stop and think in a sentence previously flowing like water. With images that burst into your minds eye, be prepared to be moved, perturbed and to feel your heart break, yet wonder at the power of this profound novel. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
It will come as no surprise to learn that Ben Elton has written another remarkable book, ‘Time and Time Again’ however, captures the flag of remarkable and nails instead to the mast, extraordinary. The first chapter seizes your attention, the second captivates it entirely, so rub your hands with glee and settle in for a stonkingly good read. Hugh ‘Guts’ Stanton is an intensely thrilling character, not by any means perfect, oh no, but definitely someone with the ability to change the world, change history even. There is such exceptionally clever writing here, groups of words can seduce and entice, then without warning, gang up and assail your senses. The surprises are also sneaky and capable of leaving you open mouthed in shock. A galloping great read, this is a book to fall in love with, to tell your friends about and as your mind replays the action, you will want it close by to dip into and read again and again.
So, so much more than just a crime novel, this beautifully written tale, inspired by real events that took place in New Orleans during 1919, weaves a hypnotic web of intrigue, tension and suspense. New Orleans struts and parades her way through the story, the author brings not only the city but also the time and people vividly to life. A musically talented Mr Armstrong makes an appearance, alongside The Mob, Voodou and a chilling letter from the real killer written in May 1919. The murders that scatter the pages are secondary to the reasons the three main characters need to find the Axeman. The author doesn't flinch from the horrors of the killings, however this isn’t a gore filled parade, there is a lilting, soulful, expressive quality to the writing which creates a captivating tale just oozing in atmosphere.
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2016. April 2015 NewGen Debut of the Month. Quite simply breathtaking, it’s all too easy to become consumed by this beautifully written, vibrantly different and darkly rich fantasy. Spend 1935 with Delphine who is 12, as she hides in history, in war and battles, seeks out Mr Garforth the Head Gamekeeper and spends her time in hidden tunnels, woods and fields… away from Mother, Daddy and the confusion and mystery of the Society at Alderberen Hall. The author has the wonderful ability to paint a vividly full picture, it almost feels as though you’ve already seen the places he is describing and you’re welcoming them back into your minds eye. There are whispers and hints of what is to come, the writing pops and crackles in your head and heart, is this truth or is it imagination? Being unexpectedly invited into the inner thoughts of some of the characters pushes your thinking to scramble one way and then the other. As you reach the foothills of the ending, take a deep breath and look out, up and beyond; with the ability to keep you teetering on the edge of understanding, this is a stunning and beautifully moving debut novel. ~ Liz Robinson
Shortlisted for the Best Horror Novel at the British Fantasy Awards 2016. Maxim Jakubowski's April 2015 Book of the Month. British author Pinborough has a strong record in the horror and SF field, and is also an upcoming scriptwriter but this novel represents a stunning breakthrough, following her recent compelling and clever trio of gently twisted fairy tale retellings, Poison, Charm and Beauty. In a forlorn ophanage cum hospital on an island somewhere in the far North of the UK, a group of children with an unknown potential illness are kept isolated from the rest of the world to await their cruel fate. At first, the story has echoes of Lord of the Flies, Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, Enid Blyton and even Narnia, until a disruptive element enters their lives and some mysteries are slowly unveiled together with a heartbreaking set of revelations and interpersonal relationships that humanise the sometimes inevitably feral nature of the children. It's a short book and you turn the pages begging for the story to continue ever further and not reach its poetic but terrible conclusion so fast. It will leave you in tears. A story of first love in unusual circumstances. Much of the tale is teen angst and hormones, the interplay of which boy is boss and for how long, with friendships won and lost. Yet there is an ever-present shadow looming: all the kids in this story are dying. That is why they have been isolated at the ‘Death House’ like a modern leper colony. This gives a layer of tragedy to everything and the wait to see who will go next is desperately poignant. It won’t cheer you up but it will draw you in and even deliver a twist or two. Good stuff.
‘The Book of the Crowman' the second and last volume of ‘The Black Dawn’, is stirring, provocative and compelling. You most definitely need to start this journey with ‘Black Feathers’, this story needs to be told, to be heard from beginning to end. As the broken land fights back, Gordon and Megan are growing in their skills, gifts and abilities. Megan is the light to Gordon’s darkness, yet both are inextricably linked and both are fascinating. I felt as though I was bearing witness, as though I needed to remember this tale as a terrifying and terrible reckoning was thundering towards me. There is a subtle weave to the writing, paths link, join, and connect, yet this isn't neat and tidy, in fact, you may still have some questions whipping around your mind as you finish, however that feels right. Joseph D’Lacey doesn't hold back, I felt pain, I felt anger, I felt sorrow, but most importantly, when I thought I was emotionally exhausted, I also felt hope. ~ Liz Robinson
Winner of the Best Horror Novel at the British Fantasy Awards 2014. Breathtakingly chilling, this is written so convincingly the fact that there is a time-travelling serial killer seems completely plausible. Each chapter is headed with either the killer or the victim and then the date; it throws you a little to start, jumping around in time, then you fall in, the story grabs hold and refuses to let go. The author occasionally allows an insight towards her killer, a little understanding as to what has made him choose his ‘shining girls’, she even allows a softening, perhaps a little warmth before ripping your feet from under you again. At times graphic and gruesome, each word, each sentence feels essential; perhaps best not to read this in public though, as flinches, grimaces and yelps are likely companions. Shortlisted for the CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger 2013. CWA judges' comment: “The quirky fusion of the sci-fi and crime genres features a time-travelling surreal serial-killer, Harper, whose story begins as a drifter in prohibition-era Chicago. When Harper "steps into sometime else", murdering along the way, he meets his match in the contemporary figures of Kirby, an engaging young journalism intern, and her unlikely sidekick Dan, a burned-out sports writer. The author plays with the abstractions of time, change, decay, memory, and imagination with great assurance and originality.” Longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2014. One of our Books of the Year 2013.
A darkly rich and foreboding fantasy which hovers on the frightening edge of a believable future. Set in an alternate England, so very similar to our own, volume one of ‘The Black Dawn’ focuses on two teenagers in two different time frames. Gordon is born at the beginning of an environmental apocalypse and Megan in the future, into a technology free world; both are destined to search for the Crowman. As with all new worlds, it takes a short while to connect to the time and story line. Joseph D’Lacey begins by setting alternate chapters to introduce the pair, however as they walk their dreams and their lives start to intertwine, their tales merge and flow together, into and around you. There are moments of real menace and dread as the Earth hits back against humans, the descriptive writing scorches your imagination. The sequel, ’The Book of the Crowman’ promises answers, although I must admit to being a little worried about what the future holds for Gordon and Megan. So, allow yourself to sink into the deeply unnerving depths of ‘Black Feathers’, to walk into dark places and through past places in this stimulating and captivating read. ~ Liz Robinson December 2015 Book of the Month.