“Growing Things and Other Stories”

Paul Tremblay’s temporary break from novel writing takes him into a sinister landscape of the horror genre with these 19 chilling tales in “Growing Things and Other Stories.”

In “Growing Things” — the title story within a story — two young girls, Marjorie and Merry, learn the terrifying truth between myth and reality when they share their usual bedtime story before turning out the lights. But the growing things that lurk beyond the closed door and in the basement are anything but fiction, as the two sisters will learn through their wild imagination and the power of storytelling.

“The Getaway” is a strong tale in this fine collection, as Tremblay makes skillful observations on the choices we make every day. Four men decide to rob a pawnshop at gunpoint, but their hasty actions have consequences, and soon they find themselves at a crossroads. Life or death, the next move they make may be their last.

One of my favorite stories, “Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport” is a unique style departure for Tremblay. Told from different points of view, the tension heightens with a snapshot of each incident that leads to a frightening resolution at Dennisport. In each of the 19 journal-like entries, the narrative is picture-perfect and suspenseful, and Tremblay’s subtle surprises will keep you guessing.

With a few lukewarm exceptions, (“Swim Wants to Know if it’s as Bad as Swim Thinks” and “Notes from The Barn in the Wild”, Tremblay’s attempt to scare you works considerably well in this stylish, unmissable short story collection.

“Land of Shadows”

A tough LA detective seeks the truth in Rachel Howzell Hall’s taut mystery, “Land of Shadows.”

Homicide Detective Elouise “Lou” Norton and her partner Colin Taggert are working the case of a 17-year-old girl named Monique Darson who is found dead hanging in a closet at a condominium construction site.

It looks like a suicide, but quickly escalates into murder territory when Detective Norton refuses to accept teenage suicide as the M.O.

Self-made millionaire Napoleon Crase, the man allegedly responsible for Detective Norton’s sister Tori’s murder thirty years ago, owns the condominium building.

Norton’s no-nonsense approach to past investigations forces her to look deeper into Ms. Darson’s case, which sends Norton through the gritty underbelly of Los Angeles, interviewing people who knew the victim.

Scouring the City of Angels, Detective Norton discovers similarities between the young black girl’s death and her own sister’s and makes an obvious connection to both girls’ cases.

A resilient female protagonist rarely seen in crime fiction today drives this brilliant mystery whodunit. Well-written, atmospheric, and a compelling look into the dark side of crime fiction, Hall has created a series steeped in history and character study. “Land of Shadows” is a well-wrought adventure for mystery readers.

“Her Every Fear”

Apartment swaps turn into a murderous cat-and-mouse game in Peter Swanson’s, “Her Every Fear.”

Kate Priddy, living in a state of constant fear after her ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly killed her, has managed to find peace and quiet in her new life.

Still dealing with the occasional bout of anxiety that her past can come back to haunt her, Kate chooses to leave her busy life in London for a slower change of pace in Boston.

Her cousin Corbin Dell suggests that they switch lives for a while, and encourages Kate to stay in his Boston apartment while he occupies her London flat.

Thinking that the change will give her a new outlook on life and time for some R and R, Kate accepts his offer.

But the moment Kate arrives in Corbin’s swanky apartment building, she senses something is wrong. A shocking discovery reveals that Corbin’s neighbor, a young woman named Audrey, has been murdered.

The apartment is abuzz with police activity, but later Kate notices the strange man living across the courtyard from Corbin’s apartment is watching her.

There are a few twists and turns that are problematic and lead nowhere, leaving the reader with more questions than answers, and the ending is a bit of a letdown compared to the otherwise dramatic narrative.

Thomas Grant Bruso is a Plattsburgh resident who writes fiction and has been an avid reader of genre fiction since he was a kid. Readers and writers are invited to connect and discuss books and writing at www.facebook.com/thomasgrantbruso.

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