We Came Back – Patrick Lacey

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WE CAME BACK is the impressive sophomoric effort from Patrick Lacey. While, yes, there are shades of King’s SOMETIME’S THEY COME BACK and CARRIE, WE CAME BACK is it’s own monster. A high school revenge tale that takes on a twisted life of it’s own. We can imagine the Melvins in the world. We’ve seen many a teenager in the news that has taken his own life with their high school as their stage as they paint the walls red with their own blood and brain matter. We’ve all experienced various levels of bullying and, while we may not go so far as agreeing with Melvin’s solution to take his own life, we do understand where he’s coming from. We can also imagine what it would do to small, close-knit Lynwood High. Ten years later, the old high school is closed and abandoned. A new school is built on the other side of town. The teachers are doing their very best to forget that there ever was another Lynwood High. That the old brick building with the chained doors and roof leaking into the classrooms never existed. The students are chalking up the stories of Melvin’s ghost wandering the halls as an urban legend. Frank Tanner is especially trying to forget that day a decade ago. Frank was a young teacher that witnessed Melvin’s suicide first-hand. Now his straight-laced daughter is dating the new goth kid and damn, if he doesn’t look familiar. And damn, if she isn’t acting up like never before. Is this all just teen rebellion or is there something evil about her new boyfriend?

Lacey builds the layers nicely in WE CAME BACK. The characters are three dimensional and realistically fleshed out. The atmosphere slowly builds and ratchets up as the story unfurls. He really does a nice job with this one. No sophomore jinx here. I’m looking forward to novel number 3.
4 Pasty White Complexions our of 5
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The Incurables – Jon Bassoff

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Every once in a while, a book comes along that has a subject matter that really stick with you. The Incurables struck that chord with me. I’m kind of a sucker for horror with a historical setting. Bassoff’s offering is set in 1953 and uses a real character with a sordid legacy, Dr. Walter Freeman. Dr Freeman created his name in the history books by being the physician noted for the controversial psychiatric procedure, the lobotomy. In fact, he streamlined the surgery by foregoing the traditional methods of exposing the brain with an incision in the skull and developed the trans orbital lobotomy. If you’re not familiar with that procedure, it involved an ice pick and inserting it in the tear duct of each eye socket, using a mallet to break through the soft bone behind the eye, and scrambling the patients gray matter by wiggling the pick around inside the brain. Freeman was a carnival barker-like salesman with his new procedure and would often “advertise” it as a cure-all to whatever ails you. By the early 1950s, Freeman had performed his lobotomy on thousands of patients, including the infamous Rose Kennedy.

I have to admit, I didn’t know much about lobotomies. Oh sure, I’d heard the term and knew it had something to do with messing with the brain and that it turned many people into drooling vegetables. What I didn’t know was the history of the procedure and how prevalent it was in society for so many years. I also didn’t know anything about Dr. Walter Freeman. While reading The Incurables, I found myself looking up all sorts of information on the internet about the subject and I found it chillingly fascinating.

Bassoff uses this sordid character and macabre nugget of American history and weaves a captivating tale involving Freeman being fired from his position and forced to take his carnival act on the road across the United States. He paints a chilling and vibrant tale of horror in a seedy small town in Oklahoma where Freeman preys on the desperation of bleak town rife with mental illness. The writing style is smooth and easy. The characters are well fleshed out and memorable. If there is a down side to the story, it would be that there really isn’t a sympathetic character in the whole bunch. They’re all various degrees of train wrecks. However, I found The Incurable to be an extremely enjoyable read and found that it left a haunting and lasting mark in my psyche.

4 1/2 Bloodied Ice Picks out of 5
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Jurassic, Florida – Hunter Shea

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Let me start this review off by saying that I’m a big fan of Hunter Shea. The guy has made his bread and butter by putting out high-quality creature features. With the amount of work this guy has published in the last few years, even Rembrandt has to stumble once in a while. Jurassic, Florida feels like Hunter’s misstep. The writing is good. The characters are decent. The content was the problem for me. In a quasi-homage to Jurassic Park and Godzilla B-movies, JF comes off as hokie. The story felt like it was trying to play it serious, but I simply couldn’t get into iguanas the size of buildings that happened to find their way to the earth’s surface after an oil well explosion rocks the Gulf. I don’t have to have all the answers to the Hows and Whys, but this one insulted my suspension of disbelief a little too much. Now, if the premise sounds like it might be right up your alley and you can overlook the “realism”, by all means, jump into it. Hunter knows how to construct character and dialogue with the best of them. But, alas, Jurassic, Florida wasn’t for me.

 

2 1/2 Bus-Sized People Eaters out of 5

 

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The Beast of Brenton Woods – Jackson R. Thomas

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Jackson R. Thomas’s debut comes to us in the form of a small-town werewolf yarn, The Beast of Brenton Woods. As far as debuts go, it’s a decent one, but the Beast also has a few fleas that I would like to see removed. Bodies are starting to show up again in Brenton Woods after many years of tranquility. Legend has it that the last time this happened in the mid-1980s, a white wolf was responsible. And just like that, the wolf disappeared. Now 13 year-olds Ben and Tyler have seen it. So have early 20-somethings Jimmy, Wendy and Bryan. They are all too young to remember the last time the Beast made it’s appearance in Brenton Woods, but it’s back, bloodthirstier than ever, and it wants revenge on a past that won’t stay buried any longer.

Thomas does many things right in The Beast of Brenton Woods. For one, the dialogue. I think this is the strongest part of the book. So many authors, especially in their debuts, swing and miss with the dialogue. It’s either too wooden or completely unrealistic. In Beast, it’s pretty much spot on. Kudos to Thomas. Second, the characters are interesting. While that’s another bonus, it also left me wanting for more…much more. And this is where we come to the flea portion of the werewolf. The story and character development. While the characters are interesting and realistic, I felt they needed to be much more fleshed out. The story is told in a frenetic pace, but we’re left to continually go back to see which character is who. After just finishing the story, I couldn’t tell you what many of the characters looked like, what the town of Brenton Woods looked like, why the Beast came back or have a clear understanding of what happened in the past. This is the frustrating part, because I really like what the story had for it’s base. I only wish it was more of a smorgasbord than an hors d’oeuvre. Jackson has a ton of promise and I look forward to watching him grow as a writer.

 

3 1/2 Yellow Eyes Glowing in the Dark out of 5

 

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