I’m a sucker for a well-written debut novel.
It wasn’t all that long ago that I was walking into a bookstore and searching the shelves for my first published work. I remember what an emotional roller coaster that was and just how badly I wanted that first book to find an audience that loved it as much as I did.
More often than not it is simple word of mouth that takes a book from middle-of-the-road sales to sales that makes the publisher sit up and take notice. In today’s installment of Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads, I wanted to do my part to pass the word on a couple of debut novels that deserve to have people talking about them.
Mark Allen Smith
Geiger has a gift: he knows a lie the instant he hears it. And in his business—called “information retrieval” by its practitioners—that gift is invaluable, because truth is the hottest thing on the market.
Geiger’s clients count on him to extract the truth from even the most reluctant subjects. Unlike most of his competitors, Geiger rarely sheds blood, but he does use a variety of techniques—some physical, many psychological—to push his subjects to a point where pain takes a backseat to fear. Because only then will they finally stop lying.
One of Geiger’s rules is that he never works with children. So when his partner, former journalist Harry Boddicker, unwittingly brings in a client who demands that Geiger interrogate a twelve-year-old boy, Geiger responds instinctively. He rescues the boy from his captor, removes him to the safety of his New York City loft, and promises to protect him from further harm. But if Geiger and Harry cannot quickly discover why the client is so desperate to learn the boy’s secret, they themselves will become the victims of an utterly ruthless adversary.
Some might look at the description above and think “thriller” rather than horror. I would counter that by pointing out that the main character, Geiger, tortures people, often quite brutally, for a living. Even worse, halfway into the story we find ourselves not only routing for this man, but in some ways actually liking him. That’s horror, my friends, and I suggest you give THE INQUISITOR a read to see what I’m talking about.
Fast-paced, well-plotted, with enough twists and turns to satisfy even the most discerning reader (and of course there’s that thing about the likable torturer!), THE INQUISITOR really delivers.
We move from the streets of New York to those of London for our second selection for today…
“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.
With an opening line like “The body you are wearing used to be mine,” do I really need to say anything more? THE ROOK opens with a bombshell like that and doesn’t let up. The central character, Myfanwy, discovers that she is an middle executive of the Checguy, a kind of paranormal MI6. The agents, Pawns, are run by those higher up the food chain, notably the Rooks (like Myfanwy), Bishops, and Lords. Myfanway takes up her usual place in the Checguy hierarchy while desperately trying to understand her role in it all and, perhaps more importantly, who in the organization is trying to kill her. Along the way she ends up protecting England from an antler cult, a villain manifesting as a roomful of flesh, and the ancient Grafters of Belgium.
With the first Myfanway leading the second along with letters left in her care, we’re treated to both the present and the past like a braided cord, drawing us along with each twist and turn. The sly humor and self-deprecating irony is simply the icing on a well-baked cake.
Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.
You can find him online at Shades of Reality.