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"Halloween Party Murder" by Leslie Meier; "The Book of Accidents" by Chuck Wendig; "When Things Get Dark" by various authors

EDITOR’S NOTE: Beginning this year, P-R book columnist Thomas Grant Bruso is introducing a five-star rating system to give an “at-a-glance” take on each book.

The ratings are as follows:

1 star = a snoozer.

2 stars = lukewarm.

3 stars = Likable.

4 stars = Excellent.

5 stars = A triumph.

★ ★ ★ ★

“When Things Get Dark”

Inspired by the enigmatic storytelling of the excellent Shirley Jackson comes a delicious collection of scary short stories by a group of talented mystery writers in “When Things Get Dark.”

Elizabeth Hand’s “For Sale by Owner” portrays three Nancy Drew-type, middle-aged women who break-and-enter into other peoples’ cabins to snoop and search—just for thrills. Their actions have consequences, and Hand delivers a generous serving of supernatural chills—a highlight in the anthology.

Cassandra Khaw digs her sharp nails into the murky corners of darkness with her relentlessly compelling read, “Quiet Dead Things.” A strange possession strangles the small town of Cedarville and leaves a mounting sense of dread on every page. The nail-biting climax is unnervingly brilliant.

Josh Malerman spins a grotesquely crafted and clever tale in “Special Meal.” In the opening scene, the story’s young male protagonist declares, “I don’t like talking about rights and lefts because directions scare me.” His declaration amps up the level of terror to an unfathomable level of unease, as only Malerman can do.

Readers are guaranteed a thrilling experience with this terrific anthology of stories ranging from mystery to the strange and supernatural. There is something here for everybody. Eighteen prodigious titles that will spook and entertain readers looking for uncanny tales.

★ ★ ★ ★

“Halloween Party Murder”

Readers will enjoy returning to Tinker’s Cove, ME, with Leslie Meier’s fun-spirited Halloween-themed novella, “Halloween Party Murder.” The story picks up where the last anthology entry, “Haunted House Murder,” ended. Ty and Heather Moon have moved to the quaint seaside town and host a haunted house at their new home. Tragedy strikes when Heather’s body is found in the upstairs bathtub. Lucy Stone, reporter for the Courier, decides to help the local police and investigate the case. She learns a valuable but shocking clue about Heather Moon that sets her down a dark path to the truth. Heather’s husband, Ty, is suspected of killing his wife. Still, as Lucy navigates the back roads of her hometown, interviewing a slew of suspects, she discovers a few secrets about her new neighbors that will change the case’s trajectory.

In “Death of a Party Monster,” a Halloween costume party is in full swing at Island Times Food and Cocktail Columnist Hayley Powell’s house. The evening quickly turns into a crime scene when one of the guests, Boris Candy, is found bludgeoned to death in a clown suit. The list of suspects is long, but Hayley, along with the local police, sets out to apprehend the jokester who wanted to silence Boris for good permanently.

In Barbara Ross’s “Scared Off,” a teenage Halloween sleepover ends in murder. Julia Snowden, the proprietor of Snowden Clambake Company, tries to clear her niece’s name as she hunts for a clever killer that murdered her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Zelisko.

“Halloween Party Murder” is a zany, fun-filled collection of holiday stories that will turn cozy mystery enthusiasts into armchair sleuths as they help detect alongside their favorite amateur detectives in this stellar holiday-themed anthology.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“The Book of Accident”

Chuck Wendig’s terrifying and unforgettable paranormal horror, “The Book of Accidents,” is the perfect Halloween read.

A blend of fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction, Wendig combines all the primary ingredients to tell a disturbing story of survival and redemption.

Set against a haunted house background, Wendig’s scarred, well-drawn characters—Nathan, Maddie, and their son, Oliver, are in a battle for their lives. Trying to stay alive in this multi-universe nightmare will test their strengths.

Long ago, in another life, Nathan and Maddie faced demons in their rural Pennsylvania town, nightmares they’d like to forget. But now, years later, they’ve returned to their old stomping grounds, and something has followed them, something hungry, preying on their horrors.

Nathan encounters his dark and dangerous past when he comes face to face with his abusive, alcoholic father. Nathan harbors secrets that he has never disclosed to his wife or son, secrets about a country house where he lived with his violent father. He revisits his past, but at what cost to his family?

Maddie, level-headed and sympathetic, is haunted by dreams that she lived with when she was a young girl. Maddie’s penchant for creating art turns sinister when her sculptures become more than a hobby.

The colossal size of Wendig’s propulsive tome should not deter you from reading it. “The Book of Accidents” will appeal to all horror readers looking for a solid scare this Halloween.

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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