Kate’s Review: “Hide”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Hide” by Kiersten White

Publishing Info: Del Rey Books, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don’t get caught.

The prize: enough money to change everything.

Even though everyone is desperate to win–to seize their dream futures or escape their haunting pasts–Mack feels sure that she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she’s an expert at that.

It’s the reason she’s alive, and her family isn’t.

But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes this competition is more sinister than even she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive. Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s always kinda fun when Serena and I have an author that we both really enjoy. Partially because it’s interesting to see how we interact with an author’s work as two people with different literary focuses, but also because it usually means an author is good at genre jumping. And while Kiersten White has been more in Serena’s genres of fantasy and historical fiction, she has dabbled in horror now and again. And for her debut adult novel “Hide”, she returns to horror, enticing fans of the genre with an abandoned theme park, adults hoping to play hide and seek for a cash prize, and sinister ulterior motives from the people who are running the contest. I mean come on. I live for all of this, and I really like White as an author. So you know I was really excited to jump into the thick of it.

White already had me with the premise of a high stakes hide and seek game where money is the prize but undisclosed dangers threaten the players. Given that stories like “Hunger Games” and “Squid Game” have appealed to me for a very long time, it was a no brainer that this theme would work for me in this novel. Especially since I enjoy White’s writing and deconstructions of other tropes she’s taken on. And I’m not going to spoil to much here in terms of big details, but the way that White handles this story, with nods to Greek mythology as well as very real issues regarding the idle rich vs an ever more strained lower class, is a well balanced take on all the things she seeks to take on. I really liked the slow build up, as each day passes we see various players start to drop out of the game, with insights into the moments leading up to their ‘loss’ that start innocuous but then turn more and more sinister as the story goes on. I was in the dark for a lot of the plot, until I started to realize just what the broader picture was, influence wise, and once I did I became all the more invested in seeing how it all played out. And the way that she weaves this in with the social aspects of wealthy elites taking advantage of lower income groups for their own gains makes it all the more interesting. Sometimes the dialog of said wealthy elites was a LITTLE on the nose (which was a bit surprising as this is marketed as an adult novel; I tend to expect more of that in YA, but hey, this is White’s first foray into adult audiences and perhaps some old habits die hard), but it was few and far between and never took me too far out of the story.

I also mostly enjoyed the characters of this book. We mostly focus on Mack, who survived a massacre on her family when her father went full family annihilator, but wasn’t able to find her to kill her as well. Mack felt pretty realistic in her personality and her closed-offness, and I enjoyed how we slowly unpacked her trauma as well as how she perceives her role in some of the outcomes. I was a bit skeptical about how White was seemingly giving bits of perspective to EVERY contestant, as boy, that’s fourteen people in only a certain number of pages. But I thought that, for the most part, she gave at least a little bit of a glimpse into all of their psyches, and let us see why they would agree to this strange contest through their motivations and bits and pieces of their backstories. Some felt more contrived than others, but in general the most important players (be it cast wise or game wise) were given a lot to work with. I especially liked Ava, a disabled veteran with whom Mack becomes quite attached to, in spite of her fears of getting attached. Ava has a lot of great lines and some great characterization, and I was very invested in hers and Mack’s relationship as well as their wellbeing.

This foray into the adult reading demographic was pretty successful, which doesn’t surprise me. Honestly, given that White’s YA books have massive crossover appeal to adult audiences, I wouldn’t be shocked if the same can be said for “Hide” appealing to teens. Regardless, I thought it was fun, and it just emphasizes how much I really like White as a dark fantasy and horror author. I hope we get more of that from her in the near future!

Rating 8: A creative and suspenseful story with nods to Greek mythology and social maladies, “Hide” is a fun new horror novel from Kiersten White and a nice crossover to adult horror!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hide” is included on the Goodreads list “2022 Horror Novels Written by Women and Non-Binary Femmes”.

Kate’s Review: “Parachute”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Parachute” by Holly Rae Garcia

Publishing Info: Easton Falls Publishing, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the author.

Where You Can Get This Book: Amazon

Book Description: Angela Rodriguez and her friends aren’t sure what they want out of life now that they’ve graduated high school, but they think there is plenty of time to figure it all out. When a trip to an abandoned elementary school leads to a break-in, they discover an old gym parachute.

Raising the fabric above their heads, the group expects it to balloon out around them like it did when they were younger. But instead, the parachute reveals alternate universes and terrifying worlds.

There’s only one ruleDON’T LET GO.

Review: Thank you to Holly Rae Garcia for sending me an eARC of this novella!

Grade school gym class was never a favorite of mine. This is probably not so shocking, given that I was fairly unathletic and very much an outcast, so there would be MANY reasons to pick me last for the various exercises and games that we would be playing. But there was always one gym class theme that I was super excited for, and that was when we’d walk into the gym and there would be the huge parachute all spread out. That usually meant we were just going to be dicking around as opposed to having to be skilled at sports. So when Holly Rae Garcia sent me the summary of her new novella “Parachute”, I immediately was interested (and definitely let her know that I LOVED the parachute in gym class, which I imagine she has probably heard a lot as of late). A horror novella that makes a gym class parachute into a tool of horror is so out of the box and interesting that I just couldn’t pass it up!

“Parachute” is a novella that takes place during the course of one evening where a group of friends, soon leaving high school behind and feeling a bit lost because of it, decide to break into the old elementary school, and find a gym class parachute. Nostalgia is a huge theme in this story, as not only does it take place during the 1990s (and has many quirks and moments that harken back to my youth), it is about young adults who are nostalgic for a dynamic they are leaving behind. As someone who can’t get enough of nostalgia, especially during trying times, I loved all the 90s references and tidbits. Now I more came of age around the Y2K part of the late 90s, so some of this was a little out of my personal experience wheelhouse, but Garcia made it feel realistic with a little bit of camp value for good measure. I felt like she nailed the time and place, and I thought that I got a good sense of the characters, their group dynamic, and their bravado that also hides insecurity. Of course this group would leap at the chance to play with a relic of their childhoods! Even if that relic is in actuality a portal to other places, dimensions, and supernatural dangers!

But what really sells this tale is how imaginative it is, with alternate dimensions, cosmic and inter-dimensional horrors, chaos, and no true answers to be found. Why can this parachute do this? Where are the places that these teens are being taken to? How many people have fallen victim to this? None of it really matters and I hope you don’t want concrete solutions. And that worked for me, because it adds to the chaotic breakdown of this friend group as one by one they are either lost in time and space, or become victims of the creatures they stumble upon. It really makes the reader have to feel the confusion and terror at the breakneck pace that our characters are feeling, and it amps the anxiety levels up in a way that felt super effective to me. And having the catalyst be an honest to goodness gym class parachute? That’s bananas! We run a gamut from generally unsettling moments of the uncanny to straight up gorefests, Garcia utilizes a lot of horror types and they all work pretty well. It was fun seeing what new weird scary thing Angela et al were going to find with each ripple of the parachute!

“Parachute” is a quick and tension filled horror novella that works outside of conventions in wholly unique ways. It both utilizes and weaponizes nostalgia, and it’s weird and funky. Definitely a fun read.

Rating 8: A quick, scary, and super imaginative read, “Parachute” jumps through time, space, and dimensions, and will make you rethink elementary school gym class activities.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Parachute” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think it would fit in on “Best Reality Warping Fiction”.

Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: “Hidden Pictures”


This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  
Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Hidden Pictures” by Jason Rekulak

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: From Jason Rekulak, Edgar-nominated author of The Impossible Fortress, comes a wildly inventive spin on the classic horror story in Hidden Pictures, a creepy and warm-hearted mystery about a woman working as a nanny for a young boy with strange and disturbing secrets.

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house. With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

Review: Thank you so much to Maris Tasaka of Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book and for including our blog on the Blog Tour of this book!

I’m the person on here who reads and reviews the graphic novels for the blog, so books with visual components are pretty common in terms of me coming across them. But I always like seeing novels that use the occasional visual component to add to the story. I think of books like “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, or the more recent (and recently reviewed on here) “Secret Identity”, which use photos or illustrations in regards to what a character may be seeing in the story. Which is why when Flatiron Press reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in participating in a Blog Tour of “Hidden Pictures” by Jason Rekulak I jumped at the chance. I already love a ghost story. But I’m even more interested by a ghost story that has creepy drawings that tie into the ghost story!

In terms of plot, “Hidden Pictures” is straight forward and moves at a fast clip. It’s a relatively long book (almost four hundred pages) but I was basically able to devour it in two evening’s time because it is such a quick read. It’s told through Mallory’s eyes, a new babysitter to a precocious little boy named Teddy who is newly clean off hard drugs and desperate for a second chance. Teddy’s parents have very high standards for his care, and while they are seemingly supportive Mallory feels a little judged by them due to her past and their very elite lifestyle. So when Teddy starts drawing strange pictures and talking about his imaginary friend Anya, and things start to escalate, Mallory has to worry about keeping Teddy safe from a potential unseen force, and not overstepping boundaries that could destroy the progress of a new life she’s made. I liked how Rekulak sets up many good reasons for Mallory to be feeling pretty alone in this as she worries more and more about Teddy, and I liked how she slowly starts to investigate and uncover clues about who could potentially be haunting her charge. The puzzle pieces aren’t overly complicated and they are familiar themes, but they are well placed and timed out. There were a lot of good twists and turns on the way to the ultimate solution, with a lot of really creepy and sometimes downright frightening moments involving a presence whose intentions are not clear. The pacing works really well and I just couldn’t put it down.

In terms of characters, it’s a little bit of a mixed bag. Mallory is probably the most interesting, which isn’t super surprising as she’s our narrator, but Rekulak brings out her layers and her background in ways that made her easy to like and empathize with. I appreciated that Rekulak took care (as far as I could tell? Tell me if I’m wrong please!) to portray her past addiction and the fallouts of that as she rebuilds in a sympathetic light, avoiding stereotypical pitfalls or trying to make a potential relapse a side plot. Her backstory is also treated with care, and it all made sense in how she makes decisions and the actions she takes as the story goes on. In terms of other characters, they were hit or miss. I liked her friend and love interest Adrian, as it was nice having someone in her corner and I liked their chemistry. Teddy was your typical precocious kid who communicates with ghosts, and his parents Caroline and Ted were a right mix of saccharine supportive and perhaps a little untrustworthy (the way they treated Mallory was another well done unease to the story; supportive but conditionally only is one way I’d describe it). Other supporting characters like Mallory’s sponsor, or the ‘eccentric’ (read belligerent and racist, but not really called out enough about it) neighbor next door didn’t work as well. But hey, the strength was Mallory and that’s what you need in this kind of mystery horror story.

And oh boy, let’s talk about the pictures. I loved that Rekulak decided to use both words and images for this book, as while I appreciate using my imagination to create images when I read, I also REALLY love a visual medium that enhances a reading experience. And the pictures in “Hidden Pictures” are awesome, running a full range of realistically five year old aesthetic, to creepy unsettling, to genuinely beautiful and moving. They really added to my enjoyment of the story overall.

With summer just around the corner, you may be looking for a fast and fun read to take on a trip or just to read while hanging around the house. “Hidden Pictures” would be a great choice for such occasions!

Rating 8: A fast and compelling plot, a creepy ghost story, and some truly unsettling artwork make “Hidden Pictures” a fun horror tale just in time for Summer!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hidden Pictures” is included on the Goodreads lists “Anticipated 2022 Horror/Thriller Releases”, and “52 Book Club 2022: A Book With Photographs Inside”.

And as mentioned in the title of this post, I am running a giveaway of the ARC of this novel! So if you think this sounds right up your alley, enter a chance to win! The giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only and will end on May 24th.

Enter The Giveaway HERE!

Kate’s Review: “Like a Sister”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Like a Sister” by Kellye Garrett

Publishing Info: Mulholland Books, March 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: A twisty, voice-driven thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Jessica Knoll, in which no one bats an eye when a Black reality TV star is found dead in the Bronx—except her estranged half-sister, whose refusal to believe the official story leads her on a dangerous search for the truth.

When the body of disgraced reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found on a playground in the Bronx the morning after her 25th birthday party, the police and the media are quick to declare her death an overdose. It’s a tragedy, certainly, but not a crime. But Desiree’s half-sister Lena Scott knows that can’t be the case. A graduate student at Columbia, Lena has spent the past decade forging her own path far from the spotlight, but some facts about Desiree just couldn’t have changed since their childhood. And Desiree would never travel above 125th Street. So why is no one listening to her?

Despite the bitter truth that the two haven’t spoken in two years, torn apart by Desiree’s partying and by their father, Mel, a wealthy and influential hip-hop mogul, Lena becomes determined to find justice for her sister, even if it means untangling her family’s darkest secrets—or ending up dead herself.

Review: Sometimes a good book can be a balm during very trying times. That has become abundantly clear during these past two years, though sometimes a fresh hell will be a good reminder of that, since this pandemic hell can sometimes fade into the background because it’s been with us for awhile (ugh, how depressing). My personal fresh hell was one of my cats having a sudden health spiral, and at nearly 18 years of age (14 of which were with me and my husband) we had to put her down. As her health deteriorated over the course of a few days, when I wasn’t tending to her and wrangling my toddler, on my down time I needed an escape. Enter “Like a Sister” by Kellye Garrett, a thriller mystery I got from Book of the Month that had been on my radar for a bit. It kept me well distracted and entertained when I really, really needed to decompress.

Garrett has a great set up for her mystery. Lena Scott finds out that her reality show star half sister Desiree has been found dead, in the Bronx, in lingerie, with signs of a drug overdoes. Though Lena has been estranged from her, she is struck with grief, and also refuses to believe that Desiree OD’d. So she starts to investigate what could have actually happened to her. That is a hook in and of itself, and we follow Lena as she has to unpack and untangle the complicated life her sister had built in the past few years. Garrett does a really good job of creating a hook, but also carefully exploring all of the suspects that Lena comes upon, as well as many of the things that Desiree had been up to that give various suspects very clear motives of why they would want her dead. I really enjoyed the twists and turns, and while I called a few of them here and there, a lot of the time I was surprised or tricked. We also get the story told through Lena’s voice, as well as through descriptions of various social media posts that Desiree has made that give hints as to what is going on, and I like how both could be insightful as well as deceptive. Lena as a main character is enjoyable to follow, and while sometimes her voice was repetitive I thought that she had a very clear perspective (I really liked how Garrett used this to talk about a lot of pressures as racism she faces as a Black woman; from having to don a ‘Strong Black Woman’ demeanor at all times to preconceptions about who she is as a person due to her race and her family, these moments flow very well and feel very realistic.

But I also really loved the complexities between all of the characters in Lena’s family circle, not just that between her and Desiree, and how her deliberate distancing from much of her family has worked both as armor and also as grief. Lena is determined to find out what happened to Desiree, unwilling to believe the narrative that seems logical, but is also bogged down in societal ideas about race and wealth. But Lena also admittedly didn’t really KNOW Desiree anymore in the months leading up to her death, as their estrangement was bitter, and perhaps this guilt is what is driving Lena’s determination. The other relationship that is fraught (and had more interaction in the moment) is the one between Lena and her father Mel, the record mogul, who left Lena’s mother for Desiree’s mother, and seemingly left Lena in the dust. Lena resents Mel and tries to keep her distance, but resents him for respecting that distance, and the unsaid resentment about his public relationship with Desiree weaves in and out of Lena’s investigation. Mel is one of the more mysterious characters, who sounds a lot like Suge Knight, but who has many depths that Lena can’t, or won’t, acknowledge. These circumstances of the estranged father and daughters means we have more mysteries to unravel for Lena, and a lot of emotional baggage to go with the murder mystery. Which Garrett depicts very well.

I really enjoyed “Like a Sister”. It’s very entertaining and will hold your attention, and if you’re looking for a thriller with some well done family strife, this is a good pick. It certainly helped me get through a very difficult week due to how darn enticing it is.

Rating 8: A gripping mystery that has complicated family relationships at the center, “Like a Sister” is a compelling thriller.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Like a Sister” is included on the Goodreads lists “Can’t Wait Crime, Mystery, & Thrillers 2022”, and “Thrillers by ITW Authors”.

Kate’s Review: “Burn Down, Rise Up”


This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  
Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Burn Down, Rise Up” by Vincent Tirado

Publishing Info: Sourcebooks Fire, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Stranger Things meets Get Out in this Sapphic Horror debut from nonbinary, Afro-Latine author Vincent Tirado.

Mysterious disappearances.
An urban legend rumored to be responsible.
And one group of teens determined to save their city at any cost.

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

If I had a dollar for every moment I saw firsthand someone kvetch about the horror genre ‘becoming woke’ or other such nonsense, I don’t think I’d have a LOT of money, but it would be enough to buy me a nice dinner downtown. I do know that people have been complaining about how more and more horror stories seem to be bringing social issues into plots, but that’s just a dumb frustration because horror has always had its political and sociological angles, for better or for worse. I haven’t heard any such beef with Vicent Tirado’s new teen horror novel “Burn Down, Rise Up”, though I wouldn’t be shocked if it was out there. But the political and sociological possibilities in the horror genre are things that I am always on the look out for, so when read the description for this book I was VERY intrigued. This country has a lot to reckon with when it comes to racist policies and ideals, and putting some of those issues within The Bronx at the forefront WHILE mixing in a deadly Internet game horror story was too interesting to miss. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a solid history lesson for readers of any age. “Burn Down, Rise Up” has that to be sure.

Given that I am a huge fan of Internet Creepypastas that have these urban legend game factors (such as The Elevator Game or Hide and Seek Alone), there was a lot to like about “Burn Down, Rise Up”. I thought that Tirado did their due diligence when it came to inventing an Internet urban legend game, with nods to real life inspirations while still feeling fairly unique and fresh. I liked the rules, I liked the eerie creepiness of the game itself, and I liked how Tirado worked history of racist policy, violence, and destruction of the Bronx into the game. It’s the history of the Bronx and the violence directed towards Black and Latine people that has the most horrors here, as the beings in this Echo are victims of the fires that plagued the Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s and were the result of redlining, inadequate infrastructure, slumlords, and other systemic oppression that made for a dangerous situation in which many buildings burned and many Black and brown people were displaced. Some of the creatures and ghouls that Raquel and her friends meet in The Echo are very clear representations of this, with many burned entities wandering around to a Slumlord antagonist to black mold-esque infections ravaging people beyond the Echo into our world. In terms of actual action and mythos of the Echo, I thought that those points were a bit underdeveloped, with the metaphors being really strong and interesting but the actual supernatural parts being undercooked. I also would have loved a bit more exploration into Raquel’s father’s connections and devotions to Santeria, and more exploration of her own psychic abilities.

As for the characters, I liked Raquel a lot, as she is trying to navigate a sick mother, a despondent friend/crush, and the conflict between her and her best friend Aaron as they both have a crush on Charlize (though he doesn’t know of her feelings). A lot of the obstacles and conflicts she faces of being a teenager, especially an Afro-Latine teenager at that, felt pretty well thought out. Whether it’s anxiety about her feelings for Charlize and whether they are reciprocated or the understandable skittishness of dealing with the NYPD as they investigate Charlize’s cousin Cisco’s disappearance, I knew Raquel as a character and understood her motivations and feelings in the moments of the plot. I was also very interested in one of the entities in the Echo that has been connecting with Raquel referred to as a Man in Corduroy, as while he is creepy and mysterious there is an intriguing essence to him through his dialogue and actions, a morally grey feel that I really liked. Everyone else was serviceable, though perhaps not as well rounded.

All in all, “Burn Down, Rise Up” had some good mythos and some well thought out connections to some dark and racist social history in the Bronx. I liked how Tirado examined this while showing how vibrant and close knit her characters, and the Bronx itself, are. A fun horror that I will definitely be recommending to teens.

Rating 7: A fun horror tale that takes Internet urban legends into politically conscious territory, though some of the supernatural elements are a bit underdeveloped.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Burn Down, Rise Up” is included on the Goodreads lists “YA Black Lives Matter”, and “Horror/Thriller Books by Black Authors”.

Kate’s Review: “Trailed”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders” by Kathryn Miles

Publishing Info: Algonquin Books, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received and eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: A riveting deep dive into the unsolved murder of two free-spirited young women in the wilderness, a journalist’s obsession, and a new theory of who might have done it.

In May 1996, Julie Williams and Lollie Winans were brutally murdered while backpacking in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, adjacent to the world-famous Appalachian Trail. The young women were skilled backcountry leaders who had met—and fallen in love—the previous summer while working at a world-renowned outdoor program for women. But despite an extensive joint investigation by the FBI, the Virginia police, and National Park Service experts, the case remained unsolved for years. In early 2002, and in response to mounting political pressure, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that he would be seeking the death penalty for Darrell David Rice—already in prison for assaulting another woman—in the first capital case tried under new, post-9/11 federal hate crime legislation. But two years later, the Department of Justice quietly suspended its case against Rice, and the investigation has since grown cold. Did prosecutors have the right person?

Journalist Kathryn Miles was a professor at Lollie Winans’s wilderness college in Maine when the 2002 indictment was announced. On the 20th anniversary of the murder, she began looking into the lives of these adventurous women—whose loss continued to haunt all who had encountered them—along with the murder investigation and subsequent case against Rice. As she dives deeper into the case, winning the trust of the victims’ loved ones as well as investigators and gaining access to key documents, Miles becomes increasingly obsessed with the loss of the generous and free-spirited Lollie and Julie, who were just on the brink of adulthood, and at the same time, she discovers evidence of cover-ups, incompetence, and crime-scene sloppiness that seemed part of a larger problem in America’s pursuit of justice in national parks. She also becomes convinced of Rice’s innocence, and zeroes in on a different likely suspect.

Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders is a riveting, eye-opening, and heartbreaking work, offering a braided narrative about two remarkable women who were murdered doing what they most loved, the forensics of this cold case, and the surprising pervasiveness and long shadows cast by violence against women in the backcountry.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!

As I’ve mentioned before, I really love visiting National Parks, even if I do so in a way that doesn’t involve camping or roughing it much beyond a hike or two. I’m just not a camper. While I hope to visit a lot of National Parks throughout my life, I am also always compelled by the darker things that have happened there. I actually hadn’t heard of the Shenandoah Murders of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams, two women who were murdered in Shenandoah National Park in 1996 and whose murders are still unsolved today, in spite of some movement in 2002 when John Ashcroft announced that a man named Darrell Rice was being charged with their murders under new hate crime legislation… which quietly fizzled out. So when I saw “Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders” by Kathryn Miles, I was very interested. National Parks and true crime, two things I really find fascinating. But “Trailed” is more than a typical true crime book, as it not only presents a true crime story, it also looks into very bleak issues when it comes to this unsolved case.

Miles does a really good job of laying out all of the things in this case that made it go cold and stay cold, and how it ranges from a killer in a remote place to prejudice to just a good old fashioned inept group of investigators from the jump. I’ve read a bit about violence, murder, and death in National Parks and on public lands before, and how bureaucracy, lack of funding, and red tape can really slow down investigations when time is of the essence. There is definitely a bit of that here, though there is also rangers at Shenandoah who didn’t want to admit that a violent crime could have happened and dragged their feet. Or the investigators who decided that since these women were lesbians it was obviously a violent dispute between the two of them gone awry. There is also the fact that once investigators zoned in on Darrell Rice, who was charged with the crime but never went to trial, they weren’t interested in looking into anyone else. Even as Miles tries to get information regarding DNA (as Rice’s DNA did not match that found at the scene), or whereabouts of another very probable potential killer, she is met with pushback and hostility from the government and people she had been working with prior. And let me tell you, Miles makes a VERY good case as to why Rice probably didn’t do this, and how a serial killer named Richard Evonitz very well could have (who was murdering women and girls in the area around the same time Lollie and Julie were murdered). I was seething by the end, as Miles is going to great lengths to try and get answers, but is being stopped at every turn.

But Miles also takes care to give a lot of time and space to give the victims, Lollie and Julie, a voice and to let us get to know them as people. One of the very fair critiques of true crime as a genre is that it objectifies the victims of violent crimes by centering the killers instead of those that were killed. In “Trailed” that is already inherently less of an issue because of the fact the crime is unsolved, but in many ways that’s even more horrific because two women’s lives were cut short in a horrendously violent fashion and no one knows who did it. At least not officially. I liked that Miles gave us a lot of information on both Lollie and Julie, as well as their families and friends, and what kind of holes their deaths left in many peoples lives. It felt to me like Miles was very respectful of them as people and was very careful in how she told and framed their stories, and it makes things all the more maddening that these women were so failed in this investigation almost from the start and then repeatedly, even up through the past couple of years as Miles has tried to find something, ANYTHING, that may give them families some answers. And unfortunately, as we’ve seen before in other cases where law enforcement and the justice system would rather double down on a theory that doesn’t hold weight rather than find actual justice, I just don’t see that happening.

“Trailed” is a well researched and compelling true crime story about a justice system failure and the dark realities of violence against women in wilderness and rural settings. Maybe someday Lollie and Julie’s families will get the answers they seek. I sure hope so.

Rating 8: Thorough, heartbreaking, and at times maddening, “Trailed” is a look at justice long overdue and the failures of a system that is supposed to seek justice, but gets caught up in ineptitude, politics, and refusal to admit mistakes.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders” isn’t on many lists as of yet, but it would fit in on “National Park Non-Fiction Books”.

Kate’s Review: “The Hacienda”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “The Hacienda” by Isabel Cañas

Publishing Info: Berkley, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca in this debut supernatural suspense novel, set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, about a remote house, a sinister haunting, and the woman pulled into their clutches

In the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father is executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost. But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined.

When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark its doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano?

Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will help her. Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to fight off the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda and protect the woman for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction. But even he might not be enough to battle the darkness. Far from a refuge, San Isidro may be Beatriz’s doom.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I am a little embarrassed to admit that Isabel Cañas’s debut Gothic horror novel “The Hacienda” was just sitting on my Kindle for months. I requested it pretty early out from the release date, and I know that when I do that books do tend to just sit. By the time I deemed it right to pick up, the chiding ‘downloaded on ___’ indicator was staring at me and making me fidget. And then when I started it, I felt myself all the more annoyed because holy COW. This book was immediately awesome! With a description that has “Mexican Gothic” meets “Rebecca” I knew it was going to be a treat, but boy howdy was I not ready for the treat that it was. I absolutely LOVED “The Hacienda”.

It bears repeating. (source)

Right off the top I want to say that the ghost story and Gothic elements are ON POINT. Cañas knows how to set the scene and slowly build the dread, pretty much starting right from Beatríz’s arrival to Hacienda San Isidro when she sees gutted rodents strewn about the courtyard. Cats are the culprits, she is told, though there is tension in the air, and it slowly builds and consumes until the tension is unbearable. There are plenty of haunted house moments applied here, from cold spots to slamming doors, to glowing eyes seen in the darkness for a fleeting second, to skeletons found in hidden places. It soon becomes clear to Beatríz that there is something haunting this estate, and as she tries desperately to get someone to believe her, it’s the servants and the locals who have the most insight. When most Priests scoff at her, one, Padre Andrés, answers her call for an exorcism. I loved Beatríz as a tormented and determined protagonist, as she both fits the bill for a Gothic heroine while also pushing against stereotypes as she refuses to be gaslit over what is happening in the home. And I also really liked Andrés, whose Father Karas-esque test of faith hides the fact that he is, at his heart, a witch whose practices have been hidden and repressed by the colonial culture that has taken root (more on that soon). They make a great horror story team, as they are easy to root for a relate to and make you become very invested very quickly. Which makes the haunting they are dealing with all the scarier. And makes the forbidden attraction between them even more high stakes. And yes, SWOON WORTHY.

But there are also a lot of underpinning themes regarding classism, racism, colonialism, and political upheaval that make “The Hacidenda” all the richer when it comes to the story it aims to tell. The aforementioned priest/witch, Andrés, basically went into the priesthood to hide his witchcraft and folk healing that has been passed down through the generations, as the Inquisition came to Mexico and practicing such would make him a target. The previous mistress, Doña Catalina, was abusive and cruel to her servants, who are of lower social standing and are also mostly mestizo in their heritage, and she sees them as subhuman. Juana, the half sister of Don Rodolfo, is a child of a hacendado but as a woman with a mysterious family background has no social claim to his wealth. And even Beatríz has connections to these political themes, as her father was murdered by Don Rodolfo’s party, and as a woman has few options and sees marriage to him as a way to keep herself safe. It’s when these real life horrors and injustices are applied to the horror tale that it really stands out, bringing in a critique of colonized Mexico and the damage it has done to the people who live there. Cañas has a fantastic authors note at the back of this book that really puts it all into context, and she weaves it in perfectly.

And on top of all that, I really loved Cañas’s writing style. She has the right flow, the most haunting and at times beautiful imagery, and paces everything just right. This is a fantastic debut.

“The Hacienda” is can’t miss horror fiction. Scary and thoughtful and a must read to be sure.

Rating 9: Gothic and creepy with ghosts, witchcraft, and commentary, “The Hacienda” is a great horror novel that can’t be missed!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Hacienda” is included on the Goodreads lists “Latinix Horror/Fantasy”, and “2022 Gothic”.

Kate’s Review: “Homicide and Halo-Halo”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Homicide and Halo-Halo” by Mia P. Manansala

Publishing Info: Berkley Books, February 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Things are heating up for Lila Macapagal. Not in her love life, which she insists on keeping nonexistent despite the attention of two very eligible bachelors. Or her professional life, since she can’t bring herself to open her new cafe after the unpleasantness that occurred a few months ago at her aunt’s Filipino restaurant, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. No, things are heating up quite literally, since summer, her least favorite season, has just started.

To add to her feelings of sticky unease, Lila’s little town of Shady Palms has resurrected the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, which she won many years ago–a fact that serves as a wedge between Lila and her cousin slash rival, Bernadette. But when the head judge of the pageant is murdered and Bernadette becomes the main suspect, the two must put aside their differences and solve the case–because it looks like one of them might be next.

Review: I was truly kicking myself when I realized that I had missed the publication of the second book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries Series, “Homicide and Halo-Halo”. Given how much I enjoyed Mia P. Manansala’s first book in the series, “Arsenic and Adobo”, and given that it’s a cozy mystery series I actually like, I immediately put it on hold at the library. It took a little time to arrive, but when it did I was thrilled! Not only was a eager to revisit the town of Shady Palms and the character of Lila Macapagal, I was also eager to read up on all the delicious Filipino food that Lila and her family makes in her Tita Rosie’s restaurant.

And it was a nice return at that! Manansala has once again put together and enjoyable and not so intense mystery involving murder, gossip, and small town beauty pageants! After the head of the judging panel of the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant is murdered, Lila (who was asked to be on the judging panel as a former winner) can’t help but be sucked into investigating, especially when her cousin Bernadette is a prime suspect. It’s the kind of mystery that, while indeed high stakes, doesn’t seem too stressful, and it has the elements of being complex and well thought out without being convoluted or too zig zaggy. I liked following Lila as she investigates like a snarkier Jessica Fletcher, and how she goes about investigating in her own way. It just flows effortlessly, and it did keep me guessing, though going back Manansala did lay the clues out in clever ways.

It’s still the characters that really make it for me. Lila remains a fun and flawed protagonist, who has a little more to work with this time around given that Manansala decides to not shy away from the emotional and mental fallout of the previous novel. Lila is having emotional and mental struggles after having nearly been killed in “Arsenic and Adobo”. I liked that we actually address how traumatizing this was for her, and how that has had some real consequences for her in her personal and professional life. But given that this is, in fact, a cozy mystery, we also don’t get too bogged down in it, and Lila is still a fun, plucky, and snarky detective with a whole cast of characters who act as her foils. From her supportive (though sometimes judgmental) aunties to her friends to her colleagues at the pageant, we have an enjoyable cast of characters, some of whom serve as some probable and potential perpetrators to the crime at hand, as well as other scandals and mysteries that surround it. I especially liked seeing Lila and her nemesis cousin Bernadette interact, as their relationship is… complicated. And we kind of get to explore why that is, and how perhaps they themselves aren’t solely to blame for it. And hell, even though there’s a bit of a love triangle (still with the love triangle, gracious), it wasn’t too focused on that I found it terribly obnoxious. Not terribly, anyway.

And once again, the recipes!! Since this is a library book that will have to be returned I can’t have it at the ready if I want to try them out…. So of course I took pictures of the recipes and sent them to my email recipe folder! Manansala introduces the readers to more Filipino foods and easily gives them background and context within the story, and then adds a few to the back to try at home. I said it last time and I’ll say it again, THIS is the kind of cozy mystery perk I can get behind!

I challenge you to read the description of Halo-Halo and NOT want to eat it immediately! (source)

I continue to be completely charmed by the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries! Bring on the next! My hunger for both well done mysteries and delicious food is ever present!

Rating 8: Another entertaining and delectable cozy mystery with yummy recipes, “Homicide and Halo-Halo” continues a fun series following a fun protagonist!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Homicide and Halo-Halo” is included on the Goodreads lists “If You Liked ‘Dial A for Aunties’ Try…”, and “Filipino Fiction (English)”.

Previously Reviewed:

Kate’s Review: “The Fervor”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “The Fervor” by Alma Katsu

Publishing Info: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, April 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | IndieBound

Book Description: From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger and The Deep comes a new psychological and supernatural twist on the horrors of the Japanese American internment camps in World War II.

1944: As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.

Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot, a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.

Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, The Fervor explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming; the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

I say this a lot on here, but I have a few must read authors and this post is about another one. I have been living for Alma Katsu’s historical horror stories since I picked up “The Hunger” a few years ago, the promise of a horror retelling of the Donner Party too amazing to pass up. We went on to “The Deep” which brought us ghosts and the Titanic. And when I heard about “The Fervor”, and how it was going to be a historical horror story set during Japanese American Internment during World War II, I was both incredibly excited, but also hit by a sense of grief. That’s usually how I feel when I read about the Internment,as I’ve covered on here in a couple of other book reviews. But I was also very excited to see what she was going to do with it. Because Alma Katsu is always unique and surprising with her scares that blend history with horror.

Once again Katsu has created a deeply disturbing horror story steeped in historical events that have their own Earthly horrors to them. “The Fervor” has a few different subgenres that it taps into, from contagion horror to political conspiracy to some fantastic Japanese folklore involving yōkai and demons alike, all within the context of the home front during World War II where America had imprisoned its own citizens because of their Japanese ancestry and heritage. I really liked all of it and how Katsu blends it all together, weaving the supernatural elements with the real world ones. There are strange and dreamy moments of kitsune fox spirits, or visions the jorogumo spider demon dressed as a woman in a red kimono who appears with a swaddled bundle, and usually brings disaster if you get too close. I’m familiar with the kitsune story, but the jorogumo spider demon was new and it was so, SO creepy. I mean, spiders are already not my favorite thing, but it was the imagery of the woman in red and the knowledge that something bad was going to happen when she appeared that really set me on edge.

But let’s be real. The greater horror at the heart of “The Fervor” is the horrors of xenophobia and racism and the oppression of the Japanese American citizens under Executive Order 9066, and how the American Government and society at large justified it. In spite of the fact that Meiko and Aiko obviously have nothing to do with the fighting in the Pacific (there are some distant connections…. but that’s all I will say and I want to reiterate that Meiko and Aiko are innocent, like all those held prisoner during this awful period), they are victims of distrust and racism. And once a mysterious illness starts spreading through Minidoka, and mysterious government agents start arriving and acting shady about said illness, we get a whole new layer of horror that has echoes of some of the things we are seeing today. Katsu draws connections between modern day racism towards the Asian American community (especially right now, given that hate crimes again Asian Americans, especially women, have been on the rise in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic), as well as the ways that our government bodies are willing to Other non-white groups to gain power of various kinds, and to keep the darker realities hidden from the public. I’m really trying not to spoil anything. Just know that it all feels like as the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s powerful parallels, and it’s the true horror of the novel.

What’s interesting about this historical retelling horror tale that Katsu has become known for is that the Japanese Internment and World War II is still, for some people, in living memory. With the Donner Party and the sinking of the Titanic it’s been so long that living witnesses aren’t really a complicating factor, but Katsu makes sure that the not so distant time period isn’t complicating to the story she is trying to tell. We have a mix of fictional characters like Meiko, Aiko, and Fran, but also characters inspired by real people like Archie Mitchell, the missionary whose wife was killed by a Fu-Go balloon bomb in Oregon (if you haven’t read up on the Fu-Go balloons it’s DEEPLY fascinating and I recommend you do). Katsu explores all the different angles of these characters and how their races, genders, and social standings have placed them where they are in society, and how that in turn ties into the greater themes of the story. For Meiko and Aiko, their race has made them enemies of the government. For Fran, she is a white woman but is also Jewish, and is also trying to make a career for herself in a world where men have the power to stop her dreams for any perceived misstep. And then there’s Archie, a white Christian man who is in deep mourning due to his wife’s death at the hands of a strange bomb that can cannot get any information on from authorities, who is conflicted between his rage and his guilt for past indiscretions, and how this leads him to some very dangerous people. They are all interesting and complex, and I loved following all of them as they all eventually come together to try and solve just what is happening with this mysterious illness, and how it connects to the Fu-Go’s and the Internment camps. It’s stellar characterization.

“The Fervor” is another disturbing and effective horror story from Alma Katsu. She is doing historical horror in ways that are so unique, and this one has a deep pain and anger within its pages that feels incredibly warranted. One of the scariest things it reveals is that America hasn’t learned much from one of its most despicable moments.

Rating 8: A compelling and still too relevant story about racism, Othering, jingoism, and fear, “The Fervor” is another well done historical horror remix of tragic events from Alma Katsu.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Fervor” is included on the Goodreads lists “Internment Camps in Fiction”, and “2022 Horror Novels Written by Women and Non-Binary Femmes”.

Kate’s Review: “Locke & Key: The Golden Age”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez (Ill.)

Publishing Info: IDW, April 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | IndieBound

Book Description: Unlock moments from Keyhouse’s long history, expanding the saga of the Locke family in this collection of stories, which includes the epic crossover with DC’s The Sandman Universe!

For two hundred years, the Locke family has watched over Keyhouse, a New England mansion where reality has come unhinged and shadows are known to walk on their own. Here they have guarded a collection of impossible keys, instruments capable of unlocking both unparalleled wonder and unimaginable evil. Take a glimpse into the lives of Chamberlin Locke and his family in the early 20th century as they use the keys to fight battles big and small. From the killing fields of Europe during WWI and the depths of Hell, the Lockes are in a constant struggle to keep the dark forces of their world at bay.

Collects three standalone tales, “Small World,” the Eisner-nominated “Open the Moon,” and the never-before-seen “Face the Music,” along with the 3-part …In Pale Battalions Go… and the epic 80-page crossover with The Sandman Universe, Hell & Gone all from the co-creators of Locke & Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez!

Review: Thank you to IDW for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!

It wasn’t so long ago that I wrapped up my “Locke & Key” re-read, and just as it was finished I was delighted to receive an invitation to read “Locke & Key: The Golden Age”. As someone who had never really gone back to read the expanded Locke Family stories that serve as stand alone prequels of sorts, this was a great opportunity to finally do so, especially since the original story was so fresh in my mind. But what made this all the more tantalizing? “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” not only has the supplemental expansions on this universe, but it also has the “The Sandman” crossover that has been tempting me ever since I heard about it.

IT’S HAPPENING! (source)

I will admit that I read this in the exact wrong order (as the collection was sent to me in their individualized sections), mostly because I was so damn eager to get to “Sandman” that I started there, which was like starting at the end. So I’m going to save that for last and start with the Locke stories that lead up to it, but also stand on their own two feet. We meet the Locke family that is living in Keyhouse at the beginning of the 20th Century. We have patriarch Chamberlain, his wife Fiona, his brother Harland, and his children John, Mary, Ian, and Jean. I liked getting to know this new Locke Family through the stories in this collection, which include “Small World”, where Chamberlain gives his kids the Small World Dollhouse key, which can bring anything into their actual house in scale sized form. Problem is, a black widow spider gets into the house when young Jean isn’t paying attention. This is a nice introductory tale that plays with a generally innocuous key, though clearly it has other issues. The other standalone story I want to mention was the most emotional of the bunch for me, called “Open the Moon”. In this story Chamberlain realizes that son Ian, who has a brain tumor and is getting sicker and sicker, is not long for this world. So he and Harland decide to construct a new kind of key to give him peace, taking him on a hot air balloon journey around the world with a magical conclusion. Hill made this short tale so bittersweet and moving, it had me weeping by the end, while still being full of whimsy and joy. These standalones were a good way to introduce a new Locke Family and to make you understand them with limited pages. Which is essential for the next two sections.

The next tale (and, of course, the one I read last because again, out of order!) was the collection called “In Pale Battalions Go”, which bridges the whimsical stand alone Locke stories with the “Sandman” crossover. I will have to spoil a bit in the next section, as the way this one plays out sets the scene for the “Sandman” story. World War I is raging, and even though Chamberlain has the keys and all the powers that they hold, he refuses to use them to turn the tides of war, as he feels they are too dangerous to wield in such ways. His son John, and idealistic early teenager, thinks that the keys should be used to help defeat the Germans, and uses the Age Key to age himself up, takes the keys, and goes to enlist. So we have a World War I tale, with some good ‘horrors of war’ and ‘great power comes great responsibility’ themes. As one can imagine, it does not go well. I liked this story for the most part, as it’s bleak as hell and it does a great job of showing the dangers of hubris and unintended consequences (something that is seen in other “Locke and Key” arcs). I also liked getting to follow John, even if I didn’t particularly care for him as a character because of his jingoistic zeal and terrible decisions. But at the same time, I think that Hill made him a fully realized and realistic character, being an impatient teenage boy during a World War that was unleashing unspeakable horrors.

And now the big event: “Hell and Gone”, the crossover story with “The Sandman”. Taking place a decade after “Battalions”, John’s twin sister Mary has a mission. Chamberlain is on his deathbed, haunted by the fact John killed himself at the end of “Battalions”. Using the Wellhouse portal, Chamberlain knows that John is in Hell because of his suicide, and Mary is determined to go and find him and bring him peace so that her father can die at peace as well. She hears of rumors that in England there is an otherworldly being that could be the key to getting her answers, and when she arrives to meets a boy with a strange helmet and amulet… You can see where this is going. I went into this thinking that there would be a fair amount of opportunity for Morpheus, but then when I realized the time period was during his capture, I wasn’t certain WHAT this story was going to do. But fear not, because this “Sandman” crossover instead utilizes other well loved “Sandman” characters, as Mary teams up with Lucien and Fiddler’s Green to confront Lucifer in Hell over John’s soul. I actually loved this even more because Fiddler’s Green is such a joy of a character, with his mild anxiety and caring heart. I also really loved Mary, as this is very much her story to shine in and SHINE SHE DOES. Her loyalty to her family and love for her twin means the stakes are VERY high for her, and it makes perfect sense that she would be down for tangling with Lucifer himself. And I believed every bit of it. And look for cameos from other “Sandman” characters, like the Corinthian, and yes, even Morpheus himself. And it’s done in a way that works for the timeline of his story combined with this one. Hill did a great job with the “Sandman” characters and mythos, it all felt like it combined perfectly and that he had true reverence for that comic and its characters.

And yes, Gabriel Rodríguez comes back to illustrate these stories and I still love his style. And he is a great artist to add to the great artists who worked on “Sandman” tales over the years.

Isn’t Mary just great? She’s great. (source: IDW)

Overall, this is a fantastic collection that both “Locke & Key” and “The Sandman” fans really need to check out if they haven’t already. I’m so happy to return to both Keyhouse and The Dreaming in this way. “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” met all my high expectations.

Rating 9: Fantastic backstory, fantastic fantasy, and a fantastic crossover with “The Sandman” Universe.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Locke & Key: The Golden Age” isn’t included on any Goodreads lists yet in this format, but it would fit in on “Best Horror Comics/Graphic Novels”, and “WWI: Speculative Fiction”.

%d bloggers like this: