9780143132172 Leila Slimani’s Prix Goncourt-​winning novel delves into the tor­mented mind of Louise, the ulti­mate nanny, who dou­bles as house­keeper, gourmet chef, and orga­nizer of chil­drens’ par­ties and out­ings, with­out extra pay. She’s also a work­ing parent’s worse night­mare: a woman whose doll-​like, Mary Pop­pins exte­rior con­ceals a dam­aged psy­che rife with resent­ment, obses­sion, and rage.

THE PER­FECT NANNY chron­i­cles the rela­tion­ship between Paul and Myr­iam, two ambi­tious pro­fes­sion­als in Paris’s tony 10th arrondisse­ment, and Louise, the nanny too good to be true who does the unthinkable.

She’s our employee, not our friend,” Paul reminds his wife, but because Louise has become so invalu­able, it’s a point they both keep con­ve­niently overlooking.

There’s no mys­tery here as far as the crime. On the first page, we’re told, “The baby is dead.” The ques­tion, of course, is not who mur­dered baby Adam and his older sis­ter Mila, but what demons drove Louise to kill them. To that end, Sli­mani takes us into her stark and lonely world, the sparse apart­ment where she spends as lit­tle time as pos­si­ble, the abu­sive hus­band who left her with crush­ing debts, the land­lord who hounds her for money.

Her days spent in her employ­ers’ chic apart­ment mean free­dom to Louise, and she makes the most of them. With the older child at school and the par­ents work­ing, she lux­u­ri­ates in a long, hot shower, then glides nude around the apart­ment, her skin pearles­cent with Miryam’s expen­sive creams.

Only occa­sion­ally does the unseemly sur­face, as when Paul comes home to find Louise has tarted up his daugh­ter in full glam­our make-​up. Dis­gusted, he pulls away from Louise after that, but by then the unequal rela­tion­ship has pro­gressed too far, mak­ing Louise almost impos­si­ble to dis­lodge. While Louise obsesses over whether Myr­iam is preg­nant again, the par­ents pon­der ways to grace­fully let her go. It’s that ter­ri­ble dis­par­ity – the nanny’s fan­tasies of being part of a fam­ily when she is, in fact, hired help – that brings the novel back full cir­cle to its dev­as­tat­ing open­ing lines.

Although the end­ing dis­ap­points, leav­ing the reader to the obser­va­tions of the police detec­tive going over the scene, as a whole I found the novel engross­ing on many lev­els – as a crime thriller and as a social com­men­tary on class dis­tinc­tion, eco­nomic dis­par­ity, and motherhood.

beauty2 11 orig The paper­back edi­tion of THE BEAUTY OF DEATHDEATH BY WATER, edited by Alessan­dro Man­zanetti and Jodi Renee Lester for Inde­pen­dent Legions Press, is now avail­able through Amazon.

This gar­gan­tuan anthol­ogy includes thirty-​nine sto­ries by “some of the great­est writ­ers of hor­ror and dark fic­tion,” in which water plays the role of both accom­plice and exe­cu­tioner. With acci­den­tal drown­ings, irre­sis­tile calls of sirens from the deep, strange whis­per­ing from house­hold plumb­ing, faces of the dead in droplets of water, rabid fish, leviathan mon­sters, and more, these sto­ries will make you think twice about tak­ing that long-​awaited cruise, going for a mid­night swim, or tak­ing your next shower.

Take a look at the Table of Contents:

HIP­POCAM­PUS by Adam Nevill

YOU WILL COME TO NO HARM IN WATER by Lucy Taylor

ANTUM­BRA by Lucy Snyder

TO TAKE THE WATER DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP by Frazer Lee

THE DROWN­ING OF COLIN HEN­DER­SON by Stephen Gregory

THE OLD WOMAN AND THE SEA by Marge Simon

THE EVER­LAST­ING by Anthony Watson

THE BAL­LAD OF BAL­LARD AND SAN­DRINE by Peter Straub

THE DEEP­EST PART OF THE OCEAN by Joanna Parypinski

WALK­ING ON WATER by Dona Fox

A SONG ONLY PAR­TIALLY HEARD by John Langan

THE WASH by Lisa Morton

WET SEA­SON by Den­nis Etchison

THE TARN by Simon Bestwick

WINGS MADE FROM WATER by John Palisano

RAISED BY THE MOON by Ram­sey Campbell

EVEN THE STARS FALL by Nicola Lombardi

COME UP by Brian Evenson

UNDER­WA­TER FER­RIS WHEEL by Michael Bailey

RIVER WATCH by Bruce Boston

PERISCOPE OF THE DEAD by Paolo Di Orazio

GILLS by David J. Schow

ORI by Adam Millard

BY THE SEA by Alessan­dro Manzetti

DROWN­ING by Gre­gory L. Norris

SEA SLUG by Edward Lee

THE HIKER by Jeremy Megargee

EVERY BEAST OF THE EARTH by Time Waggoner

SCAPE-​GOAT by Clive Barker

THE FOURTH BELL by Daniel Braum

SIREN by Jonah Buck

THE DOU­BLE LENS by Lisa Mannetti

JUST WATCH ME NOW by Jodi Renee Lester

BORN OF DARK WATERS by Michael H. Hanson

THE GORGE OF CHIL­DREN by Daniele Bonfanti

FRESH CATCH by Michael Arnzen

A JOUR­NEY OF GREAT WAVES by Eric J. Guignard

IN THE DREAM­TIME OF LADY RES­UR­REC­TION by Caitlin R. Kiernan

A sim­ple ques­tion that sets in motion a hell­ish evil and a code word an unhappy wife hoped never to see pre­cip­i­tate the action in this impossible-​to-​put-​down mix of occult hor­ror and espi­onage thriller.

51g06dPSSML. SY346 A clan­des­tine oper­a­tive named Lewis watches a ter­ri­fy­ing video where a cap­tive is forced to tor­ture him­self to death. The man in the video asks the fatal ques­tion “Who is Mr. White?” and Lewis, not under­stand­ing the dan­ger, later poses the same ques­tion to a fel­low agent. Not a good idea, for merely by ques­tion­ing Mr. White’s iden­tity the speak has sum­moned a malev­o­lent force into her or his life – which will prob­a­bly not last much longer at that point.

In one brief, sig­nif­i­cant exc­a­hange, a puzz­zled oper­a­tive is asked what tac­tic his mother used to frighten him as a boy — why, she invoked the bogey­man, of course, ready to pun­ish even a small trans­gres­sion in unspeak­able ways. Mr. White is the real life ver­sion of that mon­ster under the bed, except now he’s no fairy tale, but a malig­nant entity equipped with a dia­bol­i­cally sadis­tic bent along with a pen­chant for cre­ative impalements.

Suf­fice it to say, you do not want to snag Mr. White’s attention.

Fos­ter begins the novel with graphic hor­ror and only ratch­ets it up from there, using mul­ti­ple view­points and set­tings in Europe and the US, includ­ing a har­row­ing scene where Lewis rides the Berlin Night Express in a des­per­ate bid to reach his fam­ily. Two major plot­lines inter­twine – while Lewis is fight­ing his way across Europe, his wife Cat and daugh­ter Hedde face hor­rors of their own. In an attempt to escape Mr. White’s relent­less pur­suit, they seek refuge with their Uncle Ger­ard, a Christ­mas tree farmer in the mori­bund town of Flint­lock, New Hamp­shire, and a man who har­bors secrets of his own.

Out­stand­ing among a host of mem­o­rable char­ac­ters is teenaged Hedde, who learns about self-​sufficiency and sur­vival from her gritty uncle and secretly dab­bles in the occult behind the red door in the attic.

MR. WHITE is so good I found myself read­ing more slowly as I neared the end. Foster’s writ­ing is superb, and I wanted to savor every sen­tence. Truly a stand-​out novel not to be missed!

9781908643605 195x300THE DIS­AP­PEAR­ANCE OF ADELE BEDEAU, a dark and ele­gantly writ­ten lit­er­aray crime novel, is set in a small Alsa­t­ian town as drab as the book’s pro­tag­o­nist. Here Man­fred Bau­mann plods through his never-​varying daily rou­tine: lunch at the Restau­rant de la Cloche, bridge game with the boys on Thurs­days, a sur­rep­ti­tious visit to a brothel once a week, where he man­ages to accom­plish his mis­sion fully clothed while his ‘part­ner’ remains almost motionless.

Burnet’s atten­tion to detail and the pre­ci­sion with which he builds the char­ac­ter of Man­fred and his neme­sis, Detec­tive Gorski, make for a fas­ci­nat­ing and com­pelling read. Skill­fully, Bur­net pits them against each other, the unsta­ble loner Man­fred and the dogged Gorski, still tor­mented by the mur­der case he was unable to solve years ago.

The novel is also a cau­tion­ary tale about the per­ils of spend­ing too much time immersed in one’s own dark thoughts, and Baumann’s mind is clearly a dan­ger­ous place to dwell. Adrift in an ocean of beer, wine, and para­noia, he fan­cies the world is watch­ing. Should he devi­ate from even the small­est detail of his rou­tine – say, order­ing a dif­fer­ent dish on the day he habit­u­ally orders some­thing else – he frets that this will elicit gasps of amaze­ment from the restaurant’s other patrons and soon become town-​wide gos­sip. Com­i­cal at first, it becomes more sin­is­ter as we learn more about Baumann’s early life, his con­trol­ling and con­temp­tu­ous grand­fa­ther, and the dread­ful secret he car­ries with him.

Where the novel falls short is in the lack of atten­tion paid to its female char­ac­ters. Alhough Adele Bedeau’s dis­ap­pear­ance pro­vides the cat­a­lyst for all that fol­lows, in her brief appear­ance in the book, she’s a cipher, a sullen young woman who appar­ently dis­likes her job and has a secret boyfriend, but lit­tle else. Even Bau­mann, who obses­sively observes her, acknowl­edges he’s never given any thought to what her life is like or who she is. There’s also a brief and rather puz­zling love inter­est for Bau­mann that, given his per­son­al­ity, goes about where you’d expect it to, and a look at Gorski’s snob­bish and unpleas­ant wife who regrets her mar­riage to a lowly law enforce­ment officer.

Although once the mys­tery is solved, some read­ers may be tempted to skip the After­ward, don’t do this, for Bur­net isn’t done with us yet. He pro­vides an entire his­tory of the novel’s sup­posed author, one ‘Ray­mond Brunet” who had a life oddly sim­i­lar to Manfred’s.

Alto­gether a grip­ping lit­tle mys­tery, both styl­ish and macabre!

butsudanTrav­els to the lands of the liv­ing, the dead and the damned describes the sto­ries in Fatal Jour­neys. The But­su­dan, included in the new signed Lim­ited Edi­tion, is a story about sex, death and the ghosts of Japan­ese ances­tors. Here is The But­su­dan for your enjoyment:

Hiroshi-​san died at the start of the New Year. Now, nine months later, it is the begin­ning of Obon, the fes­ti­val of the dead in Japan, and he is due to come home for a visit.

As I trudge back from the mar­ket, I can sense the happy excite­ment and antic­i­pa­tion of the peo­ple around me, many of them already wear­ing yukatas, light­weight sum­mer kimonos, in prepa­ra­tion for the danc­ing that will start tonight, but all I feel is a pro­found, stomach-​turning dread.

33572350MY ABSOLUTE DAR­LING, Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel, is the grip­ping, often shock­ing tale of Tur­tle, a fourteen-​year-​old girl attempt­ing to sur­vive in two worlds: that of her school, where she strug­gles over vocab­u­lary words and treats female peers with a casual misog­yny and that of her home, where her father’s tute­lage in firearms, sur­vival­ist train­ing, and the kind of men­tal and phys­i­cal tough­ness that would do credit to a hard­ened com­mando, has come at a ter­ri­ble price.

Turtle’s love/​hate for her father Mar­tin has evolved in a cli­mate of phys­i­cal abuse, casual cama­raderie, and con­stant indoc­tri­na­tion in his toxic world view. Mar­tin is a fas­ci­nat­ing, yet ter­ri­fy­ing char­ac­ter, a man so dam­aged that he nick­names his daugh­ter ‘kib­ble’, like the food fed to dogs, and pre­pares for an end of the world that one senses he’s more than a lit­tle eager to see.

Tur­tle is not, how­ever, with­out allies. An alco­holic grand­fa­ther in the trailer nearby attempts to help her, a per­cep­tive teacher offers sanc­tu­ary, and a school­mate named Rilke, her­self the vic­tim of Turtle’s bul­ly­ing, makes over­tures of friend­ship. Each is foiled by Turtle’s fierce insis­tence that noth­ing is wrong at her home.

post apocalyptic horror I’m a late­comer to Malerman’s grip­ping novel, BIRD BOX, which was pub­lished in 2014, but per­haps some other fans of hor­ror and post-​apocalyptic fic­tion have missed out on it, too.

BIRD BOX, which gets its name from the caged birds whose coo­ing is sup­posed to warn of approach­ing intrud­ers, is a fast-​paced, intensely creepy tale that starts with an ambi­tious premise – the world is sud­denly pop­u­lated with crea­tures that, once looked upon, drive humans into a sui­ci­dal rage.

We meet Mal­o­rie, a young woman on a twenty mile boat trip upriver with her two chil­dren, the unnamed Boy and Girl. All are blind­folded. Mal­o­rie relies on the children’s preter­nat­u­rally keen sense of hear­ing to tell her when dan­ger is near. Maler­man does a fine job of ratch­et­ing up the sus­pense as the trio approach poten­tial threats. Is that rustling in the bushes a human being? Is that musky smell a prowl­ing wolf or dog? Mal­o­rie and the kids are never sure, but to give in to temp­ta­tion and remove the blind­folds could mean a swift and vio­lent death.

31377300 The scari­est thing about Underdown’s grip­ping novel isn’t that it’s based on the his­tor­i­cal record of one Mathew Hop­kins or that his cru­sade against witches is (in Underdown’s fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion of his early life) pos­si­bly moti­vated by trauma he suf­fered as an infant, but that the dis­em­pow­er­ment and silenc­ing of those con­sid­ered to be infe­rior beings feels so famil­iar today.

The year is 1644, in Essex, Eng­land, a time of polit­i­cal and reli­gious upheaval. Alice Hop­kins, the nar­ra­tor, is a widow who seeks shel­ter with her brother Mathew, a preacher’s son bent on rid­ding the coun­try­side of women sus­pected of witchcraft.

The world Alice was born into has trained her to be meek and sub­servient toward men. As Mathew’s unwill­ing assis­tent, she faces a daunt­ing task: bear wit­ness to the hor­rors of the inter­ro­ga­tions while still try­ing to help the women escape their fate. Her efforts do not go as hoped. When we meet her, Alice is locked in an attic, keep­ing a jour­nal which opens with, “Nine months ago my brother Mathew set him­self to killing women.”

51ExyEhNNPL“I want you to kill my step­dad” begins Ham­mers on Bone, Cas­san­dra Khaw’s mas­ter­ful com­bi­na­tion of gritty noir detec­tive story and Love­craft­ian cos­mic hor­ror. The star­tling request comes from a young boy named Abel, who slams his piggy bank down on the desk of Detec­tive John Per­sons to prove he can pay for the hit.

Turns out Abel’s prob­lem is an abu­sive step­fa­ther, and Per­sons is the only one he feels he can turn to. Per­sons help­fully sug­gests Abel might “tell his mum to call child ser­vices,” but the kid, older than his years, is fully aware his step­dad, McK­in­sey, is much worse than just your aver­age social deviant. He is, in fact, a bonafide mon­ster. Abel also knows why Per­sons is the only one with a shot at tak­ing him down.

Added to this mix is a younger brother who’s at even higher risk from McKinsey’s abom­inable intent and Sasha, a pretty wait­ress who’s been tainted by the vile McK­in­sey herself.

science fiction, post apocalypticThe night before my mother walked into the New Sea car­ry­ing my six-​week-​old brother, I heard her and Papi argu­ing. Even with the wind scream­ing past our tiny squatter’s house on the ciff, the rage in her voice slashed through the thin wall.”

So begins my story “Sweet­lings”, a sci­ence fiction/​horror nov­el­ette about a young woman named Mir, her father, and Mir’s friend Jer­sey, all strug­glng to sur­vive in a world reshaped by cat­a­strophic floods. Mir wasn’t yet born when the Great Inun­da­tion took place, but Papi lived through the floods that wiped out much of the east coast of the United States. Now he stud­ies the new forms of crus­taceans emerg­ing out of this New Sea and con­cludes the Great Inun­da­tion was just the begin­ning – there is much worse to come.

Like most of the peo­ple in their small set­tle­ment, Jer­sey wants to take his chances going inland. He tries to con­vince Mir to go with him, but she won’t aban­don her father, who suf­fers from Blis­ter Rot and is con­fined to a wheel­chair. Papi also has strange lapses in mem­ory; at times he looks at Mir as though she’s “noth­ing he’s ever seen before, but some­thing fab­u­lous and faintly unclean, a bizarre species of spi­der fish or toad that just wrig­gled its way into creation.”

Find out what fate awaits Mir, Papi, and Jer­sey – and what ter­ri­ble sur­prises this New Sea may have in store!

Visit www​.Tor​.com and click on fic­tion. “Sweet­lings” is free to read!