Category Archives: Paranormal Fiction

Frightful Friday: Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is the audiobook production of Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry:

  • Listening Length: 16 hours and 3 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 25, 2014)
  • Source: Personal copy

*Note: This is a review of the sixth book in a series. Please proceed with caution if you have not read/listened to the previous books in this series*

 

Joe Ledger and the other members of the Echo Unit of the Department of Military Science (DMS) have had their share of interesting experiences. From battling the zombie plague to designer viruses, they’ve seen it all. Any remnants of these weapons have been stored in a remote and isolated location known as the Locker. Until now…

After other units of the DMS are decimated in attacks, the DMS is spread thin. Weapons they thought destroyed or locked up are appearing in public locations. Their new nemesis, Mother Night, has managed to break into the DMS’ impenetrable super computer system, Mindreader, gaining access to knowledge that shouldn’t be made available to the public. Even worse, she broadcasts a video of a rescue mission in which a team went in to put an end to a plague of zombies. The same plague the DMS thought they conquered and destroyed. Before doing so,  she dubbed over the sound to make it appear as though the individuals being shot upon are citizens begging for their lives.

This isn’t the first time the DMS has been under fire. The timing, however, couldn’t be worse. The must put an end to Mother Night and her league of rogue “soldiers” before she can unleash something more dark and devastating than before. In doing so, they realize that the individual responsible for their actions isn’t a stranger to the DMS. Her identity shatters the tough exterior of the DMS. Rather than weakening them, however, it makes them stronger, more dedicated and determined to put a stop to Mother Night.

Told in a series of flashbacks to the time Joe Ledger originally joined DMS, Maberry takes readers (or in my case, listeners) on a path through the history of the DMS and Ledger’s existing unit.

Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is one I rush to listen to as soon as it is released. Not only are they truly outstanding novels filled to the brim with action and less than natural enemies, but they contain truly outstanding characters that have grown tremendously since the culmination of the series. Joe Ledger, on the surface, is a mean, brusque, no-nonsense kind of guy.  Yet in the past several novels, Maberry has slowly unveiled a softer, more vulnerable side of Joe.  To me, this has created a more dynamic, more genuine character in Joe Ledger.

Fans of Maberry’s writing will appreciate the return of characters from the past (as well as one from another series). I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning and have to say, without a doubt, this is the best one yet.

As with the other titles in this series, I listened to the audiobook production of this title. I don’t see myself ever “reading” them.  That’s not to say that the writing doesn’t stand on its own, it genuinely does. Yet Ray Porter’s narration has captivated me. To me, he is the voice of Joe Ledger and the other cast of characters. He completes the package for me, his narration capturing the essence of Joe and the rest of the cast of characters.  I won’t say I wouldn’t enjoy reading the titles, it would just feel different, not complete. If you are new to this series, I highly recommend going with the audio.  Some of the best out there!

I know this goes without saying, but this, and other Ledger novels, come highly, highly recommended.

Other titles in the Joe Ledger series (in order):

Patient Zero
The Dragon Factory
The King of Plagues
Assassin’s Code
Extinction Machine

 

Review: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Vaughn Entwistle

  • Series: Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 25, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1250035007
  • Source: Publisher

Arthur Conan Doyle is the most hated man in London after he kills off the beloved character of Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem.”  When he is invited to come to a meeting of the Society for Psychical Research in a manor house in the English countryside, he willingly accepts the excuse to get out of the city. He’s not there merely to participate in the meeting, but to prevent a murder.  The intended victim: the lady of the house, Hope Thraxton.  A medium herself, Lady Thraxton has predicted that her own demise will take place during a seance at the manor.

Joining Doyle on this journey is his good friend, Oscar Wilde.  Together, they must painstakingly ob the observe guests at Thraxton Hall, narrowing down the suspects in an attempt to identify the killer before the murder can transpire.  Aided by his fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, Doyle soon comes to terms with the fact that things are not necessarily always as they seem.

I was immediately taken when read the premise of this novel. I’ve been a long time fan of all things Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. Be forewarned, however…Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have as big a part in this novel as fans would hope.  His presence is just enough to serve as a reminder of his existence and Doyle’s inability to separate himself with his renowned and loved character.

That said, there is still much to love and appreciate about this first book in a new series. Doyle and Wilde’s witty banter is one of them. Doyle is living the life he created for his character, Sherlock Holmes, and does so quite willingly. He uses the skills of deduction so prominently used by Holmes.  Wilde, on the other hand, is quite the character. He seems more concerned about the well-being of his wardrobe  than of Doyle and the others.  While some might find this to be annoying, I think it added a bit of humor to their already unusual friendship.

The paranormal aspect of this novel was also quite enticing.  It didn’t monopolize the storyline, it simply added a new level of fear to an already chilling scenario.

I’m excited to see that this novel is the first in a new series. While the “whodunit” aspect isn’t all that difficult to figure out, I think The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is evidence of great potential in this new series.  Recommended to fans of good, old fashioned mystery (with a touch of the paranormal)! 

Frightful Friday: Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.  This week’s featured title is Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough:

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (January 14, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1623650860
  • Source: Publisher (egalley)

The detectives of Scotland Yard are already immersed in the hunt for Jack the Ripper when another serial killer, dubbed the Torso Killer due to his practice of leaving behind a headless body, makes his presence known. The police surgeon, Dr. Thomas Bond, is so overwhelmed with horrific images of the dead that he turns to opium for some relief.

It is in an opium den that Bond meets a Jesuit priest, searching for someone…or something. The priest gives Bond a chilling and unbelievable explanation for the deaths and the identity of the Torso Killer. Something supernatural and horrific is at force. At first, Bond is quick to dismiss him but as the bodies begin to pile up, he begins to wonder of the priest is correct in his claims.  The more he investigates, the more Bond believes that he knows the identity of the Torso Killer, an individual quite close to his circle of friends.

Based on an actual series of killings that took place during the reign of the Jack the Ripper killings (but obviously didn’t receive nearly as much coverage!), Mayhem is a brilliantly executed blend of crime procedural and supernatural fiction. I’ve been intrigued about the Jack the Ripper killings for as long as I can remember so it’s no surprise that this book grabbed my attention.  There are quite a few portions of the book in which the reader must suspend disbelief, but this is to be expected in a novel of this sort.

Mayhem is certainly not a book for the weak of heart (or stomach), but fans of Victorian crime fiction and the supernatural are certain to be enamored by Pinborough’s truly skilled writing. She so expertly captures the essence of Victorian London, making it quite easy for readers to slip right into the rich atmospheric setting.

I’ve been a fan of Pinborough’s writing for some time, particularly her Dog-faced Gods Trilogy, largely due to her ability to combine two of my favorite genres: crime fiction and supernatural/horror.  Her writing introduced me to a whole host of talented UK horror writers and for this I am forever thankful.  If you have not checked out her books I highly encourage you to do so! Highly, highly recommended!

Review: Return to Tradd Street by Karen White

  • Series: Tradd Street (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade (January 7, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0451240596
  • Source: Publisher

Melanie Middleton is struggling to get on with her life after refusing Jack’s proposal.  Pregnant and determined to raise the child on her own, Melanie is determined to complete the necessary renovations to her home before the baby arrives. She’s completely unprepared for the pregnancy and motherhood, not to mention the loss of her ability to sense spirits who have not passed on.

Sleeping is already a challenge given her current stress level, but one night she’s awakened to the sound of an infant crying. Certain that this has something to do with her pregnancy and is nothing she should be concerned with, Melanie goes back to sleep.  Unfortunately, she should have taken notice. While a renovation crew was working to repair the foundation to her home, they uncover the body of an infant, buried in an old christening gown.  Melanie is determined to uncover the mystery of the baby’s death, uncovering a history riddled with lies and deceit, not to mention an angry spirit determined to keep these secrets buried. What she reveals not only leads to the infant’s identity, but also potentially her claims to ownership of the very house she is trying to renovate.

This novel serves as a very bittersweet ending to a series I have truly grown to enjoy. I’ve become quite attached to Melanie and Jack and am quite invested in their future (together or not).  The author has continued, in this novel, to create a series in which readers are drawn to, not only because of the ties to the supernatural and the rich history of Charleston, but because of the incredibly genuine characters she has developed and nurtured over time.  I absolutely adored the Southern settings and customs.  What’s a story set in the South without a bit of spiritual history?

If you haven’t had the chance to embrace this series, I do highly recommend that you do so. I do recommend that you start at the beginning of the series and follow it through in order. While the author does provide a small bit of back-story, it is my opinion that you are missing out on a lot of you skip out on the earlier books in the series.  I’ve broken the series down below (including my reviews, if applicable). Bottom line: this novel, and this series as a whole, is a rich and beautiful collection of Southern fiction. Highly, highly recommended.

The Tradd Street Series:
The House on Tradd Street
The Girl on Legare Street
The Strangers on Montagu Street

 

Review: Starter House by Sonja Condit

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (December 31, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062283057
  • Source:  Publisher

When Lacey and Eric, a young expectant couple, began their home-shopping journey, Lacey knew exactly what she wanted in a house.  Growing up with unstable living arrangements and a flighty mother, she wanted more for her unborn child. When she saw “the house,” she knew it had to be theirs. Their realtor tried to warn her that deaths had occurred in that home, but Lacey would hear nothing of it. The house had to be theirs.

Soon after, a dark presence envelopes the house. The “spirit” of a young boy, Drew, makes his presence known. He’s tied to the house, unable to leave. His temperament is uncontrollable and soon his very existence, along with the dark presence in the home, begin to affect Lacey and her baby physically.  As she begins to investigate the history of the house and its inhabitants, she uncovers the first of many dark secrets: No baby has survived in that home in over 40 years. Determined to save the life of her unborn child, Lacey will stop at nothing to bring to light the secrets that have been haunting this home for all these years.

I’m all about a spooky story and, in a large part, Starter House succeeded at sending chills down my spine. The dark presence, the horrific family secrets long ago buried, all added up to a wonderfully creep experience.  The images of the spirit of young Drew and his emotional outbursts was truly terrifying. I don’t know about you, but creepy ghosty kids truly terrify me.

That said, there were aspects of the story that irritated me. Lacey, before the move, was a teacher. Fine, that’s great. I like teachers. Yet the author repeatedly brought up the fact that she was a teacher, that she would have what it would take to tame this emotional and unruly young ghost.  One or two times, I’m okay. Repeatedly? It makes me feel like the author things I’m an idiot or have a short term memory.

Additionally, there were connections between characters that I think were a bit far-fetching. I’m not going to specifically mention which characters as I don’t want to influence the perceptions or experience of other readers but when you come across it, you’ll understand what I’m referring to.

That said, despite these few issues I did honestly enjoy this novel. Starter House succeeded at spooking me! An impressive debut, I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the official tour page for additional stops in the tour!

Review: The Descent by Alma Katsu

  • Series: The Taker Trilogy
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (January 7, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1451651821
  • Source: Publisher

*Please Note: This is the third book in a trilogy. If you have not read the previous two books, The Taker and The Reckoning *gasp* please do not proceed in reading this review.*

Lanore McIlvrae has struggled to rid herself from the grasp of Adair. Yet when she begins having nightmares of Jonathan, her deceased former lover, is being tortured in the dark depths of the underworld. Reluctantly, Lanore  admits that Adair is her only salvation. It is he alone that can devise a means for her to go to the hereafter and beg for Jonathan’s release.

She finds Adair on a secluded island off the coast of Italy.  The reunion is bittersweet; the passion they shared for one another is still quite alive.  Lanore finds two female tourists, Terry and Robin, living with Adair. Although he admits to spending his nights (and days) in bed with them, he hasn’t formally made them his companions. The jealousy is double-sided, for the two women are less than thrilled to see Adair’s reaction to Lanore’s arrival.

When Lanore finally gets around to asking Adair for help, his quick response shocks her. When the journey to the hereafter begins, neither Lanore nor Adair or quite prepared for the battles they are both forced to endure, both physically and emotionally. It is quite possible that Lanore will, too, become one of the captives of the Queen of the Underworld, never returning to Adair as she promised.

In this thrilling conclusion to the Taker trilogy, readers will notice a marked difference in overall tone as compared to the previous two books. The Descent itself is a journey, not only Lanore’s to the Underworld but a journey to the past, to Adair’s youth and the start of his obsession with alchemy. Readers glimpse a wholly different side of Adair than previously witnessed, a side that shows his vulnerability and genuine love for Lanore.

The imagery in The Descent, too, is spectacular. Her descriptions of the secluded island in which Adair resides are so genuine and real that you’ll feel the harsh wind across your face, feel the desolation that the island exudes. Lanore’s journey through the Underworld, her encounters with those from her past, are absolutely mesmerizing.

Fans of this blog know that I’m not fan of romance. That said, the love that Lanore and Adair share, a love that transcends time, space, and other worlds, is one that I couldn’t help but appreciate. Never did I fathom that I would find myself rooting for this unlikely couple!

In conclusion, I do believe that The Descent is the perfect conclusion to a truly stunning trilogy.  Highly, highly recommended!

Side note: I will be interviewing Alma at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA at the release party for The Descent (Tuesday, January 14th at 7pm). Have any questions you would like asked? Add them to the comments below and I will do my best to include them in the interview. Want to order a personalized copy of the book? Click here!

Disclosure: I consider myself a friend of the author, Alma Katsu.  I am mentioned in the acknowledgements and have offered the author words of encouragement and support throughout her publication journey. That said, this relationship did not at all influence my review of this book.

 

Cozy Mystery Week: Witch Way To Murder by Shirley Damsgaard

CozyMystery2013

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; English Language edition (August 30, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0060793481
  • Source: Library

Ophelia Jensen is a small-town librarian who refuses to acknowledge her psychic powers.  She moved to this small town after an incident from her past left her with severe post-traumatic stress syndrome.  Her grandmother, Abby, sees know reason to deny or hide her peers.  While Abby doesn’t come right out and admit to being a witch, she’s comfortable in her powers and appreciates what they offer.  Despite all her attempts to separate herself from her super-sensory abilities, dreams keep making their way into Ophelia’s subconscious, forcing her to focus to track down the identity of a young woman who frequents her dreams.

When a dead body is found in the woods behind her home, Ophelia can’t help but get involved in the investigation. Closely following her is Rick Davis, a stranger who has come to town to reportedly investigate a series of chemical thefts in town.  Something dark and dangerous is amiss and, despite all her attempts to rebuke her powers, Ophelia gets sucked in. With the help of Abby, the two must use their combined energies to bring justice to the small town.

As you may have noticed, I’m drawn to  cozy mysteries with a tinge of supernatural. Going in, I was expecting a light, simple read. Surprisingly,  Witch Way To Murder had much more depth to it than I could have ever expected. The backstory the author reveals about Ophelia’s past was just enough to provide explanation as to some of her behavior without detailing too much.  If readers are anything like me, I’m desperate to know more about Ophelia’s youth and the incident that forced her to abandon her powers.

Additionally, since I was born in the Appalachian myself, I truly appreciated that the author chose to focus on the natural, old-school form of magic and witchcraft native to this part of the country.  I’m really looking forward to learning more about the abilities that Ophelia and Abby share!

This series was recommended to me after I solicited cozy mystery series to feature this week. I’m genuinely interested in catching up with all the subsequent titles (6 in total).  If you are looking for a truly engaging supernatural cozy mystery, this is the series for you. Highly recommended.

Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (August 27, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0778315339
  • Source: Publisher

In 1966, Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s son died at his eighth birthday party. Now in their seventies, their lives have resumed without him, filled with loss and regret.  Then the dead begin to return, not as zombie-like version of their previous selves but exactly as they were when their lives were brought to an end. Harold and Lucille discussed what would happen if Jacob returned, both convinced that it was impossible for them to accept him as their son if he did return.  And then it happened: a knock at the door changing their lives forever. A government man standing alongside their son, just as he was when he died.

Despite what she stated previously, Lucille welcomed him back with open arms. Harold was more reserved, unsure how to treat this little boy who, on the surface, looked just like his little boy whose body he recovered from the river. Harold isn’t the only one unsure of how to deal with “the Returned.” An entire government agency, the International Bureau of the Returned, was charged with dealing with this unusual phenomenon, including reuniting the Returned with their loved ones and asking the fateful question: “Do you want to keep them?”  So many people were returning that the Bureau soon faced funding issues, spending it faster than they could accumulate it.

The social reaction to the Returned made the decision for them: concentration like camp facilities were created to house these individuals.  One such camp is created in the Hargrave’s small town of Arcadia, causing an influx of Returned.  The town shifts from a quite respite to a military-like front filled with armed soldiers. In addition to dealing with the rapid influx of residents it is difficult to ignore the questions left dangling: how and why did these individuals return? Has the world come to an end? Why are only some individuals returning, but not all?

The setting, our nation’s “Bible Belt” adds an interesting spin to this novel. A region that so passionately embraces and celebrates religion is forced to deal with a situation like no other. Their reaction seemed to be quite polarized: either they embraced the Returned, welcoming them back into their lives or shunned them like some sort of beast sent by the Devil. Their religion is tested at a time in which they are at their most vulnerable.  The worst aspects of human nature come to the surface as the world as  a whole is forced to come to terms with this miraculous event.

This debut novel was one of many books I mentioned during the Fall Preview event hosted by my favorite independent bookstore, One More Page Books & More.  I mentioned it not only because it is a stunning debut, but of the reaction it evokes from readers. You’ll be left questioning your own response if you were in the Hargrave’s shoes. Would you be able to accept your loved one back?

My only issue with this novel is that we never learned how or why these individuals have returned.  It is my fear that so many people will tear through the pages, hoping to receive some glorious revelation as to the cause of the return and in doing so miss out on some pretty outstanding writing.  Mott himself explains that the inspiration from this book came from a dream he had a few years ago in which his mother, who passed away in the summer of 2001, returned from the dead and was waiting for him when he returned home from work.  They had the opportunity to catch up on all things that she missed in the time she’d been gone.  Upon waking from his dream Mott was left wondering what his reaction would be if that really happened.  Understanding that the impetus for this novel came from somewhere so close to the author’s heart moved me, wanting me to contemplate these very questions myself.

So, while the cause of the return is never revealed, I think this was an intentional move on the part of the author. He doesn’t want readers to get caught up in the mechanics of what happened, instead focusing on the characters and their reactions, questioning our own responses should we ever find ourselves in this situation.  So, I implore readers not to get so wrapped up in the how and why it happened but focus on the characters and their response to this life-altering experience. Highly, highly recommended.

It’s no surprise to me that ABC has picked up the pilot of a television series based on The Returned, renamed Resurrection for its television review. Check out the trailer:

The book trailer is pretty outstanding as well:

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops along the way!

Also, if you are a fan of audiobooks, I do encourage you to check out these free prequels to The Returned.

Frightful Friday: The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm:

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (July 30, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0857663429
  • Source: Publisher

*Note: This is the third book in a series. The review below may contain spoilers if you have not yet read the previous books*

Sam is a collector of lost souls, requiring him to collect the souls of the damned in order to ensure their delivery to the proper destination. He’s rid the world of some pretty horrific creatures and his most recent job presents him with an even more difficult challenge: hunting down the Brethren, a group of eight former collectors responsible for evoking vast devastation on mankind. As he embarks on this journey, the storyline flashes back to Sam’s first collection: Hitler. This was a risky and interesting path but boy, did it pan out.

I was worried the flashbacks would interrupt the flow of the current storyline but found it actually enhanced it. Readers got a glimpse of Sam as a “young” and naive collector and followed him as he learned the skills required to be a successful collector (i.e. possessing the bodies of other humans).  Then, when the storyline shifts to present time, readers see just how far Sam has come in his life as a collector. The plot in each of the settings are equally captivating and intense so the reader isn’t really losing anything in the time shifts.

The Big Reap, the first two book in this series, is jam packed with intense action but what really makes this novel stand out is Holm’s truly brilliant writing. Whether it be a steamy description of Sam’s handler, Lilith, or a battle scene with a horrific monster, Holm truly has a way with words. His incredibly descriptive writing allows readers to feel as though they a part of the story, the scenes and setting taking shape before one’s eyes.  The scene that had my glasses fogging is the following, in which Sam sees Lillith for the very first time:

She was, it shames to me to say so soon after selling my soul to save the love of my life, the most stunning woman I’d ever seen.  And apparently, I wasn’t the only one to find her so -  even the radio in the other room had fallen silent upon her arrival. Her eyes glinted emerald and onyx, somehow suggesting throaty laughs and whispered secrets and traded glances from across a crowded room that led wordlessly to clothes discarded and limbs tangled in passion.  Her cheeks and shoulders were dusted with freckles, and the sultry scent of sun-warmed skin clung to her, as if she’d wandered through a summer orchard on her way to these bleak environs.  Her hair tumbled lustrous red across her shoulders in undulating waves and curls, the last of which on either side curved to frame her perfect breasts, which seemed to ever-so-slightly strain the mere molecules of silk that attempted to contain them.  And her lips, painted the color of fresh blood, were so sensuous – so transfixing – I couldn’t help but wonder what foolhardy acts men had perpetrated with the hopes of kissing them, of tasting her breath, of simply seeing them smile.

Hot, right!? Yet Holm’s talented writing goes beyond writing sultry descriptions into truly complex and intense scenes throughout the novel. I imagine him writing many of these scenes, wondering if he realized the moment he wrote them just how brilliant they are?

Additionally, another unique aspect of this series is how Holms so easily and so naturally weaves in a bit of philosophical/social commentary.  It isn’t forced or out of place, but flows naturally within the storyline.  A key message The Big Reap is the concept of forgiveness.  While it isn’t pervasive, it clearly plays a role in Sam’s existence.

Sam, as a character, is vastly complex and tremendously well-developed. This novel in particular provides readers with a far deeper and intimate glimpse into his character. Sure, he’s a big, tough, brute of a man but, despite losing his soul, Sam hasn’t lost track of his human morals and beliefs.

By far, the best thing about this series is the fact that is crosses so many genres, nearly impossible to classify it into just one. While the supernatural aspect is present, Holm’s own history is in writing horror so there are elements of that genre that are present. Honestly, I don’t think there is a reader out there who wouldn’t appreciate the sheer brilliance contained within this series. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Girl Below by Bianca Zander

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (June 19, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0062108166
  • Source: Publisher

After living a decade in New Zealand, twenty-eight year old Suki Piper returns to her native London. She struggles to reconnect with the London she knew ten years ago. It isn’t until she track down Peggy, a family friend still living in the building Suki grew up in, that she feels she has some sense of home. She quickly becomes part of Peggy’s dysfunctional family, serving as a grounding force for Peggy’s sixteen year old grandson.

The longer she remains in London the more memories come rushing back. Specifically, memories of the night of a party and what happened in an abandoned air-raid shelter. For reasons unknown to Suki, this shelter keeps reappearing in her dreams and memories. Who is the girl down below and how does she play a role in Suki’s life?

Told through a series of flashbacks and memories, The Girl Below is a story of one young woman’s quest for understanding about her childhood. Her father abandoned her family when she was young and, years later, her mother passed away, so Suki has never really felt like she has a sense of family and home. Always feeling displaced, she struggles to come to terms with the individual she has become and the instances in her past that have influenced this. Rather than dealing with these feelings, Suki often turned to drugs and a series of relationships, attempting to drown out the memories rather than dealing with them as she should. The turning point in Suki’s search is the point when she learns the truth of what happened one night, dispelling assumptions she’s held to be true all this time.

What makes this a truly compelling novel is the alternating time periods. The reader walks side-by-side with Suki as she takes this path of self-discovery, uncovering details of her past. While there are vague elements of the paranormal, I didn’t find this to be a particularly chilling read. That said, my scare meter is set pretty high so it does take a great deal to send chills down my spine.

Additionally, Suki is a completely fleshed-out and interesting character. While she’s close to thirty in age, her maturity level is that of a teen, in my mind. This can be largely attributed to the issues she experienced in her home as a youth, perhaps preventing her from maturing psychologically as she should have.

Ultimately, The Girl Below is a novel that steps out of the boundaries of “typical” contemporary fiction, adding elements of mystery and the paranormal to entice and gain the interest of readers. Zander is a fresh new voice in fiction! I look forward to reading more of her work! Highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours fro providing me the opportunity to review this title. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour.