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!

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