Book Review: ‘The Malan Witch’ by Catherine Cavendish

‘The Malan Witch’ is a haunting story of old magic, retribution and superstition, filled with tension and suspense.

The writing is powerful, full of symbolism and dark imagery that captures the imagination and takes hold of the pit of the reader’s stomach.The tone becomes darker and increasingly urgent as the story unfolds.

This is a gripping read and an absolute page-turner, suitable for Young Adult and older audiences.

Book Review: ‘Autumncrow’ by Cameron Chaney

‘Autumncrow’ is a collection of stories set in the spookiest town in America, telling of its past and some of its quite varied and interesting residents. 

The town of Autumncrow resembles any other small town in many ways, and the people who live there are completely normal people — except, perhaps, for the fact that they acknowledge their monsters and accept their fears more openly than most of us are willing to do. 

The stories are loosely interwoven, ranging from the deeply unsettling to the macabre and horrifying. Each tale is a well-written narrative characterized by a dark undercurrent that creates shadows and nuances that become bigger and bolder at night. Some of the imagery is regular Halloween fare, while other elements are more sinister. 

‘Autumncrow’ is a most enjoyable work of macabre storytelling, suitable for young adults and older readers.  

Book Review: ‘Lydia: An Odd and Twisted Short Story’ by Lou Yardley

This is a short story in which the author develops a sense of foreboding and mystery that gives the reader that odd feeling in the pit of their stomach.

The plot is unpredictable and twisted, playing on the reader’s suspicions and assumptions right to the end.

Easily read in under an hour, this is a great read for busy people who enjoy dark fiction and psychological horror.

Book Review: ‘All The Children On The Porch’ by Dona Fox

‘All The Children On The Porch’ is a mysterious and creepy dark read about secrets, lies and the ghosts of Halloweens past.

The story is beautifully constructed and suspenseful, achieving a sense of foreboding that builds slowly and steadily as the story progresses. Fox’s imagery evokes flashes of memory and glimpses of the macabre truth, keeping the reader guessing right to the end. 

This is an excellent short story for Halloween reading.

Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Curse’ by Wilkie Martin

The sequel to Inspector Hobbes and the Blood, this is the second book in Wilkie Martin’s Unhuman urban fantasy mystery series.

‘Inspector Hobbes and the Curse’ delivers an intriguing and unpredictable mystery story featuring the hapless Andy and the unflappable Inspector Hobbes as they investigate the circumstances of a wild animal killing a local farmer’s sheep. 

Of course, nothing is as straightforward as it might otherwise be, so the story develops into a much more complicated and unexpectedly bizarre case than either Hobbes or Andy are expecting. 

Martin’s writing is witty and easy to read, characterised by a lighthearted tone that is enriched by word play and “dad-joke humour”, and balanced by macabre scenes and some really lovely poignant moments. The story is very engaging, and carries the reader along at a very comfortable pace.

This quirky and fun read provides a great escape for the duration of the book, and the series is proving to be most enjoyable. 

Book Review: ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ by Katie Cross

It is a rare thing to find a series of books for Young Adult readers  that ticks all your favourite boxes: mystery and magic underscored with macabre and gothic elements, strong female characters, quirky twists, and themes and ideas that are universally compelling and interesting for teen and adult readers alike.

Just as it exists in the world-famous Harry Potter series, it exists in The Network Series by Katie Cross. This first book in The Network Series delivers a well-paced, expertly constructed story that ticks all of those boxes and more. 

Make no mistake, though: This is no mere imitation. ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ is original and unique, and the story is thoroughly engaging. The book ends with sufficient resolution to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion while dangling enough magical carrots to leave the reader wanting to just keep reading. 

The writing is excellent, creating an environment and atmosphere that is vivid and almost tangible, and propelling the reader into a story full of mystery, suspense and foreboding. 

Readers of all ages will find this book hard to put down, and should expect to be left wanting more. Thankfully, there is an entire nine book series, and another fantasy series featuring dragons by the same author, to look forward to. 

Book Review: ‘Dead Lake’ by Darcy Coates

Suspenseful, dark, mysterious and occasionally macabre, ‘Dead Lake’ is a supernatural thriller set in and around a remote lake cabin. 

The anticipation with which the story starts soon turns to foreboding which grows steadily more profound as the tale progresses.

Coates’ writing is enriched with vivid imagery that stimulates the reader’s senses and imagination, immersing them in the curiosity, and then the terror, experienced by Sam, the protagonist of the story. By the two-thirds point of the story, the fear and adrenaline is palpable and the suspense creates a strong sense of dread that is both compelling and distinctly uncomfortable. 

Because of its suspense and brooding darkness, this is an excellent read that will appeal to readers of mystery, thrillers, and horror alike. 

Book Review: ‘A Dark Covenant’ by F.B.Hogan

‘A Dark Covenant’ is a Gothic horror short story filled with foreboding and dramatic tension, embellished with macabre scenes that cause the reader to hold their breath and open their eyes just that little bit wider as they read. 

The writing is evocative, subtly appealing to the reader’s senses while appearing to tell the story in a quite straightforward fashion. The terror of the climax is heightened by the profound contrast with the main character’s indifference toward his situation, and with the pathos of his childhood experiences. 

This outstanding short read demonstrates not only the author’s versatility, but also her ability to draw extraordinary horror stories out of the most ordinary of circumstances. 

Book Review: 'Dead by Morning' by Kayla Krantz

Teen peer pressure reaches terrifying new levels in this YA paranormal thriller, in which the protagonist Luna Ketz appears to be a most unlikely heroine: she’s not popular, she’s Muslim in a predominantly white community, and she hates Chance, the boy who is determined to get her attention. 

The tension between Luna and Chance continues to escalate as the story progresses and Luna finds herself caught in a web of conspiracy, secrecy and deceit. In a highly original blend of YA paranormal, mystery and horror, the gripping storyline is evidence of author’s ability to blend reality and fantasy in an intriguing way that engages the reader and causes them to invest emotionally in Luna’s fate.  

‘Dead By Morning’ is easy to read and hard to put down once started. 

Book Review: ‘Red Ink: A Darkworld Tale’ by T.D. McIntosh and Nancy Uliano

Macabre and unsettling, this psychological thriller seems disjointed and strangely sequenced until the strands of the story start to pull together.

That which at first appears to be gratuitous splatter for spaltter’s sake turns out to be far more complex psychological horror brought about by a deadly combination of individual volition and a dark power that cannot be explained. 

The reader is shocked and disoriented by the twists and turns, just as the characters are, feeling as though the story lurches from one disturbing and not-quite-fully developed scene to the next without sufficient resolution. As the story begins to gel, and the seemingly unrelated events all start to lead to the climax of the story, the reader begins to realise that this was an entirely deliberate and quite complex strategy, designed to emotionally immerse the reader in the confusion and fear evoked by both the actions of the antagonists and the experiences of the victims. 

Gory and unpredictable, this is a dark and disturbing read.