Hello there, mates. How’s everyone doing thus far with this pandemic? I hope all is well with you and yours, and yes … I looking forward the return of Normalcy 2.0. Lets be real, normal will change for many of us, but enough of that. I came across this title during my monthly “vetting” of the booklist in order to decide what gets onto the stacks at my branch (and what does not). When you encounter a tagline, that reads “the biggest company, the perfect algorithm, what could possibly go wrong?”, on a book with a cover that is designed to parody the packaging of a certain well-known online retailer … well, an evil grin along with a good hunch emerge in my mind. And here we are. But enough with my usual bollocks and such and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?
Qualityland is actually the name of a country in the (near, possible???) future. Somewhere along the line a certain country with a troubled history (I’m guessing Germany but don’t quote me on that … please) decided that they needed to change their name and voila … Qualityland. In Qualityland the citizens are known as QualityPeople that use QualityMoney (or Qualities) for currency and QualityPads for internet access (and just about everything else). TouchKiss is the way most digital transactions are concluded. Yes, instead of using fingerprint recognition, it is deemed more secure to use your lips since these are not so easily forged. A bit worrisome in the event of pandemics, if you ask me. AI along with realistic humanoid androids (apart and combined) are rampant and normal as everyday life. Self-driving taxis bicker and harass passengers to rate their service even though they may not carry you completely to your destination in what is determined as a red-zone (or unsafe neighbourhood). Yes, in case you missed that bit, algorithms have made self-driving cars very discriminating especially when it comes to certain neighbourhoods. It gets better. Daily or certain social interactions allow you to be rated. The higher your rating on Everybody (Qualityland’s version of Facebook and Twitter combined), the greater your access to jobs, medical care, and even wealth, fame, sex. If your ratings fall to 10 or less you are known as a Useless. Needless to say, your life becomes a crapshoot at that point. Oh, and another thing, surnames are based on parental or current occupations such as (for example) Melissa Sex-Worker or everyone that is unemployed shares the (indignity) of the surname, Jobless. And then there is TheShop, an online warehouse, with algorithms so tuned that they are practically psychic and knows (and delivers) what you (might) want or need before you even know it. And as it turns out they are usually correct. And for some strange reason Jennifer Aniston does not fare well and her rom-coms are seen as a celluloid curse that the world has to tolerate.
Peter Jobless, is an unemployed (shocker) slacker that inherited a scrapping business from his late father and also lives where he works. Due to some strange environmental law, repairs to any form of automatons (even Roombas) are forbidden and once discarded these devices have to report to the nearest local scrapper. Martyn Chairman is a sleazoid politician that cheats on his wife with every willing Qualiteen intern and loves browsing revenge porn sites … and also works for Conrad Cook, a celebrity chef turned president. Kiki Unknown is an enigmatic hacker that knows the ins and outs of most systems and makes a living through various unorthodox means (such as blackmailing men with videos of them self-pleasuring to revenge porn sites). Yes, I know you’ve just imagined one possible scenario in this book. Henryk Engineer is cross between Bezos, Musk with a hint of Zuckerburg thrown in, a recluse and the CEO of TheShop. And then there is John of Us, the first android poised to be elected as president of Qualityland. Somewhere along the way, Peter Jobless life hits the skids: first he’s dumped by his girlfriend since the dating app (called QualityPartner) advised her to do so and replaced him with a newer, exciting partner … whilst on an actual date (!). Then on a date with Melissa Sex-Worker (you can guess what she does for a living) he breaks a (Sex) contract by not (get this) having sex. This led to his rating plummeting and giving the status of Useless. Just when his life couldn’t get anymore complicated he gets a delivery from TheShop: a blue dolphin vibrator. To his chagrin and dismay, when he tries to return it, TheShop refuses to accept it since …well … algorithms don’t make mistakes. And so starts the strange odyssey to meet face to face with Henryk Engineer as Peter Jobless bumbles into love and unwittingly starts a revolution … all because of a blue dolphin vibrator.
Qualityland though set in the future, is a delightful parody and at the same time, a cautionary tale about where we’re actually heading (or already in). One of the most interesting moments in the book was the android, John of Us, speech about data-mining and not what but who is really the “product” that Big Data is selling out there. Not exactly earth-shattering, but enough to occasionally pop you out of sleep some of the nights and channel your inner Albert Finney (I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”). Throughout the book there are these little pop-ups of snapshots of web content, some humourous, some disturbing and some laughable … with comments (alas, there are trolls in Qualityland). A superbly hilarious, thought-provoking book with a wee touch of the disturbing (especially the obvious dislike for all things Jennifer Aniston), Qualityland has something for everyone of varying stripes. Dare I say, a nice beach companion for the coming summer (even if you’re a Jennifer Aniston fan and there is no more need of social distancing, or that coronathing hanging around).

Genesis by Robin Cook

Once in a while, I like to do crazy things like reading books about stuff that’ll probably give sleepless nights or in the case of Mr. Cook … make me paranoid of ever setting foot in another hospital. So naturally when I came across Robin Cook’s new book, my inner masochist simply threw caution to the wind and said … bloody hell, why not. Of course this is most likely the book that most folks may want to read as this country struggles through the Coronavirus crisis. Fear not, though a medical thriller it has very little to do with pandemics, and yes, I try not to be a complete and insensitive tosser. But enough of the blah-blah and other pleasantries and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?
When twenty-eight-year old social worker, Kera Jacobsen, shows up on the autopsy table at NYC’s Office of City Medical Examiner (OCME) it seems like a typical overdose. Another tragic victim of the opioid crisis. But for ME Laurie Montgomery and her brilliant and enigmatic pathology resident, Dr. Aria Nichols, things are a wee bit off since Kera was never known, by most, to abuse drugs and it was discovered during the autopsy that Kera was ten weeks pregnant. To make things even more interesting, when Kera’s friend (and fellow social worker), Miranda, collaborates with Aria and suggest the use of genealogical DNA databases to track down the mysterious father of the child, things really take an interesting turn … and the shit hits the fan (Miranda is murdered). And so a strange game of cat-and-mouse begins.
Aria is an interesting character (to say the least): a potential forensic prodigy that constantly defy resident protocols, a possible sociopath, and has an aversion to anything male and bearing a penis.But what she lacks in social graces, emotions or following rules she makes up for quite skillfully in forensic investigations and autopsies. On the other hand ME Laurie Montgomery aside from being an astute and consummate professional has to deal with Aria as a subordinate, and then there is the fact that she has a ticking time bomb inside her (she’s diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutations) and two children that are on the autistic spectrum. Her husband James is also a skilled medical examiner AND her subordinate. Yes, awkward pillow talk and such bollocks but he is seemingly the one thing that balances out the seeming and impending chaos that exist in her life. But paths will intersect as the search for this mysterious man continues in dizzying speed, and somewhere in the midst of the medical labyrinth there is some willing to kill, with undetectable efficiency, to make sure that truth never comes to light. And everything hurtles towards a breathtaking conclusion that may leave some folks with soiled undies … and a reasonable fear of medical institutions.
In a world where genealogical databases offer so much insight to people’s past, Genesis shows the other side of this medical Pandora box offering. In truth, in several cases genealogical databases haven been used to solve unsolved murder cases. Cook, in typical fashion, offers up a thrilling read and cautionary tale into the world of genealogical databases: it may be help you learn about the past … and even the present … in, some cases, very gory details. Use with caution. And enjoy the read.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Running Title: Bad Blood – Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup

Several years ago I was sitting at home watching the telly and I came across this news flash about some woman named Elizabeth Holmes. Apparently, she was involved with some fraudulent behaviour involving some tech startup that got her into hot water. Sounds bang on and to the point. Little did I know, and thanks to members of my book club (yes, I run a book club in my branch and no it is NOT called the Evil Parrot Book club) and their recommendation of Bad Blood, I was made a bit wiser. And somewhat, troubled. But enough with the teasing, niceties, and other usual bollocks and let’s get on with the bloody review. Yeah?

The last thing I wanted to read was some boring blah-blah about some Silicon Valley tech startup, and about 20 pages into Bad Blood, it had dawned on me that Carreyrou’s tome was anything but boring. At some points I thought I was reading one of these creepy, conspiratorial Grisham novels, and to my dismal horror, it was not. Most importantly, it was based on something that was real and equally terrifying (don’t worry you’ll see the reason for such dramatic descriptions). Bad Blood introduces us to the interesting world of Elizabeth Holmes: blonde-haired, blue-eyed, super-intelligent AND a Stanford chemical engineering student. Or as my mum would say “wife material”, though my mum may be a bit biased since she is a retired chemist. Ah, we’ve detoured. When most of us at certain age were trying to figure out those labyrinthine first few years of college, Ms. Holmes was learning Chinese Mandarin and working at Singapore laboratory that performed tests for the SARS (remember that bit of craziness, oh … right we’re dealing with version 2.0 of that bollocks … coronavirus, they say). Then somewhere along the way Ms. Holmes had an Eureka moment and an LED bulb lit up in her mind: micro-sizing the world of blood testing. Instead of drawing vials of blood (as is currently done for blood testing) what if the same results could be achieved with blood droplets? Instead of scary needles, how about patches with micro-sized needles that could be applied to the skin to draw small amounts of blood? Best of all, instead of having to wait days or maybe more than a week, results can be sent back with hours? Now imagine if these testing devices were in everyone’s home and were beaming info back and forth through cellular and Wi-Fi technology. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It most certainly did in Ms. Holmes’ mind to the point that she dropped out of college and filed a patent for the futuristic vision of a blood testing patch. And with college tuition money being used as seed money the health-tech startup known as Theranos was born, and Silicon Valley had a new neighbour. And the slow hitting of shit on the fan. Though a marvelous theory, building the machinery that would deliver all this medical greatness proved quite the bugger. And then appeared the silent partner known as “Sunny”: Ramesh Balwani, a Hindi-Pakistani software developer that was apparently more than a “mentor” and “advisor” to Elizabeth. Let’s just say that their relationship may have been more than “professional”. Chunder factor: this bloke was twice her age. Like a siren, Ms. Holmes had good sales pitch that most could not resist and it drew in the likes of many high-caliber personalities such as Larry Ellison, Henry Kissinger (aye, that one), and retired Marine general, John Mattis. Even after being told, by very competent engineers, that her “contraption” was very flawed and, in subtle terms, an engineering clusterfunk waiting to happen, Ms. Holmes did the next best thing: cheated by buying and hacking commercially competent Siemens systems to perform blood tests and then past the stuff off as Theranos testing. I know what you’re saying: that was wrong on so MANY levels. That was the good news part. The bad news was that she and Sunny went even further as they hired a high-end pitbull of a lawyer and weaponized non-disclosure agreements for incoming employees for “protection of intellectual property” (that was useless). And then there were the harassing and stalking of employees/potential whistleblowers (including family members that dared to work with her). And tossed into the mix, an unusual (and possibly unhealthy) fixation on all things Steve Jobs. Though being called a female Steve Jobs by Forbes magazine only added to the egos and the misery of others. Yes, characters were assassinated, reputations ruined and there was one suicide … all based on a carefully crafted lie.
Bad Blood, most would find in a very short time, is not a very boring read. Unchecked, Theranos was a potential Pandora’s box for the medical industry where faulty testing would have lead to healthy people taking unnecessary treatments (like chemotherapy or paying over $3000 out of pocket to find out that you’re really fine) and unhealthy people would be given a false sense of security (such suffering a heart attack when you were assured that you were “fine”).
A cautionary tale for those that are pro-business and at the same time think that regulations are too “bothersome” or “in the way of progress”. Though started with noble and lofty intentions, somewhere along the way ego, image, delusions and yes, greed kicked in and a lot of really good folks got plowed under into a churning, crimson tide. And in a time when whistleblowers and diligent journalism is treated with disdain, Bad Blood unwittingly, sheds a bright shining light on these silent and unsung heroes that are scattered throughout this society who remain oblivious to the greater good that they do. And the cost they pay. Good show, Mr. Carreyrou. Jolly good show.

P.S. I don’t think mum would approve too kindly of Ms. Holmes behaviour.

The Cartel By Don Winslow

For some strange reason I am drawn to some of the dark aspects of this life in this world, both written and screened. If Netflix and my cable subscriber is reporting on my viewing habits, there is probably (at most) some interesting files sitting somewhere in some interesting buildings or (at least), some warnings issued to potential mates. So when someone donated the Don Winslow book to my branch, there was something that screamed “you’ve got to put this in the stacks … and you have to check it out”. It probably had to do with the fact there was a bulletproof vest featured on the cover with the word “Cartel” on it. Aye, I’m an easy sucker for a catchy visuals and titles. Well so much for the pleasantries and other such bollocks, so let’s get on with the bloody review. Yeah?
First off … Cartel is over 700 pages long. What, you ask, could they write about in 700-plus pages in a book simply entitled, The Cartel? Apparently, a lot, and there is nae a dull moment in none of those pages, and the best part is even when you finish the book you still feel that there should have been … MORE. Aye, it is that (terrifyingly) good.

Art Keller is a Vietnam veteran turned DEA agent and one of his biggest accomplishments is toppling the Sinaloan cartel, El Federacion, and capturing it top leader, Adan Barrera. Cartel finds Art residing in a Mexican monastery as its primary and premium beekeeper, producing good honey whilst enjoying a bit of solace away from the crazy world … though his Sig Sauer isn’t far from reach. Unknown to Keller, Adan has negotiated an extradition to a Mexican prison to serve the rest of his jail sentence. What the Americans don’t realize is that Adan’s extradition to a Mexican prison is about as harsh as me being transferred to a library branch … in Hawaii … with free housing … in a big mansion … for 5 to 10 years. From the scariest prison in Mexico, Adan lives it up with all the comforts of a premium five star resort as he runs his drug empire and is protected from his enemies from confines of his “jail” … as he plots the demise of Art Keller. Of course, When Art is informed of this change of events, more than vows are broken as Art willingly joins up for this narco-war. And so begins the rapid descent into the world of terrifying, viscous darkness and re-definitions of barbarism as an unorthodox game of cat and mouse is played. Though the Cartel is supposedly orbiting around Art and Adan, there are some interesting “scenic routes” in terms of characters that show up and add to this immense, yet terrifying and twisted mosaic: a group of reporters, foot soldiers, beauty pageant winners (yes, this is not an editing error). Compared to what is shown in the (sanitized) news, the fictional Cartel sheds some terrifying light on the real world of cartels. Where beauty pageants don’t offer scholarships to Ivy League colleges but are actually grooming grounds for wives and mistresses of narco-kingpins. Where cartels have better surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities that rival those of the CIA and FBI, and along with corrupt members of law enforcement can reach out and squash those that are deemed a “threat”. Where being a journalist means literally putting your life on the line to write and publish the truth. Where loyalty doesn’t always promise longevity and the possibility of being a convenient sacrificial lamb and the promise that your family will be well taken care off (as Joe Isuzu would say … sure !!!). Where rising up the ranks in the cartels means to engage in strange game of chess, where a pawn can suddenly become a king and vice versa; or you can be cannibalized (sometimes literally) by your own chess pieces (I’m guessing not much time to sleep is a staple of being in the higher rungs in this “business”… hmm … where do I sign up?). Where rising to the top as female makes you the scariest person in the room, since the narco-world is very misogynistic and takes a whole lot of machismo (and some extreme levels of depraved viciousness) to impress these chaps. At this point of time, it is needless to state that this is not going to have any fairytale endings and folks emerging out at the end are not quite unscathed, mentally or physically (or both).

Cartel though fictional is (sadly) not in the least, some exaggeration of what’s actually out there. And that, folks, is some scary shit to say. Several years ago I reviewed a book called Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano which is a NONFICTION documentation of the cocaine trade around the world, and it reads like Winslow’s Cartel … except that it is well … REAL. Cartel is one of the few fictional books that actually points an accusing finger at us with the question, “How much is your high, really worth?”. The answer, as both books would indicate, apparently a very high price and what some of us are paying for that indulgence, stateside, is the “discount” price. And though some of the viciousness that have been associated with cartel violence has been termed “barbaric” and “barbarians”, I’ve looked up several known historical barbarians and I hate to say it, but even those barbarians had a code that they lived by. What Winslow’s Cartel describes in many pages is something beyond barbarism.

One final note, it turns out that Winslow’s Cartel is actually a second book of The Power Of The Dog trilogy. Aye, I must admit that I have not read the first. The good news is that Cartel holds it own and is a dog’s bollocks standalone. All that is required is a good stomach. Happy readings, mates. And good show, Mr. Winslow.

Full Throttle by Joe Hill

What can I say? Looking back at the list of books I’ve read during 2019, it is disturbing to note that I’ve been reading … nay… consuming a lot of horror novels. Dark, disturbing and sometimes, stomach churning horror novels. I don’t know what that says about me, though it might explain my (perpetual) single status. Whatever. Their loss. Ever since NOS4A2, I’ve been fascinated with Joe Hill’s writing, and though I’m not a big fan of anthologies (don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a good few) I like reading Mr. Hill’s offerings (remember Strange Weather, folks?). So when I saw Full Throttle staring at me from the “New Arrivals” shelf, I figured why not … it’s not like I’ve got a string of dates lined up and seemingly sane folks can’t live on binge-watching the telly (I think I’m sane). But enough with the bollocks and let’s get on with the blooming review (so you folks can get back to your holiday festivities such as sipping eggnog and cuddling up to a Love Actually on Blu –ray … what, only me on that one, I’ve detoured … and revealed much).

Now in the last few months, I’ve serenaded you with the dark and disturbing, lotion-in-the-basket, sort of horror. Full Throttle is a nice “break” away from such. And yes, I am being extremely generous in the use if the word “break”. Full Throttle is a delightful collection stories that are frightening but not always (except for a few) in the preternatural sense, ranging from cautionary to vengeful to hear-touchingly creepy to (yes) macabre.

    To avoid spoiling the stories for my fellow readers and coming off like a complete tosser, I’ll offer up a taste of what is in Throttle:

  • A bunch of bikers carrying a dark secret finds themselves unwitting victims of a mysterious truck driver.
  • Teens visit a seaside carnival and youthful bravado leads to an assault on an innocent carousel worker … and unleashing a terrifying and frightening secret that would change their lives.
  • A bookmobile driver finds that his mobile library serves an interesting set of patrons: the dearly departed (though I must say as a librarian, my work with the public has it limits).
  • A girl and her AI companion, in a futuristic world, puts human morality under a magnifying glass and a sad commentary is revealed.
  • A Twitter user visits a horror-themed circus and finds themselves in a terrifying world. Or is it just a publicity stunt?
  • A call for help in a tall, grassy area at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, lures unsuspecting Samaritans to a sinister setting. They’ve made the movie adaptation (In The Tall Grass) on Netflix. The book and the movie versions differ slightly and that’s all this bloke’s saying.
  • A patriot separatist plans an act of domestic terrorism (shocker), but his past misdeeds have plans for him and his associates.

Bloody hell, I said I’d give you sampling and just may have screened the entire blooming book for you. To quote the immortal Marlene Dietrich: “Can’t help it”. And yes, I just quoted Fraulein Dietrich.

Though Full Throttle won’t have you cowering under the sheets in bowel-pinching fear, the stories are riveting and delightful chiller-suspense, mixed bag. Especially on a cold Christmas night for those that don’t fancy watching the telly with any Christmas themed movies (particularly ones featuring Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson). And most of all, it’ll make you appreciate some of the good anthologies that are out there. And I am looking forward to the second season of NOS4A2. Good show, Mr. Hill. No really, it is a jolly good show.

Stephen King is having a really cool year. The second part of IT was in the theatres (it was bloody awesome … no pun intended … ok, maybe just a little). And the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep (which I reviewed several years ago … feel free to look it up), made it to the movies this month (about bloody time). Needless to say, I saw it and Rebecca Ferguson played a delightful Rose the Hat (gave me the hibby-jibbies). So when I heard that this book was on the horizon, I just couldn’t wait and it was spared very little resting time in the stacks at my branch. But enough with the blah-blah-blah, pleasantries and other such bollocks and let’s get on with the blasted review. Yeah?

Tim Jamieson has come to a sudden dead-end in his career, as cop in a Florida town, and has decided to settle for the “greener pastures” of (get this) New York City. An overbooked flight changes his mind and he ends up hitchhiking (with over two thousand dollars for giving up his seat on the plane) towards the North. He soon finds himself in a small, unknown town in the South Carolina. He settles and finds a job as a night knocker: basically a cop that patrols the town and knocks on the doors of businesses and certain individuals in order to make sure all is well. The pay sucks, it is simple and he is unarmed, but life in this town is just as simple and nice. Or so it seems … for the time being.

Luke Ellis is twelve-year old kid. He is your typical twelve year old with a few minor exceptions: he is quite the child prodigy and when he is in a certain mood eating utensils and other things tend to move around on their own. Yes, Luke is telekinetic. And then one night, Luke’s parents are murdered and Luke is kidnapped and brought to a strange place in Maine known as …. (wait for it) … The Institute. The institute is run by a psychotic, Nurse Ratched type named Mrs. Sigsby and is staffed by a bunch of motherless, ex-military types of varying specialties. On entrance to the Institute many of the kids are told a yarn about them serving their country and saving the world …. and then the brutality …er, testing begins. Despite these are pre-pubescent teens, failure to confirm is met with physical abuse and even a form of water torture that makes waterboarding feel like a quaint baptism. Wait, a minute … children being separated from families and treated badly? Sounds familiar. Maybe not, only from the strange and twisted mind of King. Aye, that’s it. Along the way Luke befriends Kalisha Benson (who sounds like the Afro-American girl in last season’s Stranger Things), Nick Wilholm (the rebel), Avery and George Iles. Sort of like a twisted verstion of the Breakfast Club, except that these kids never go home, detention seems permanent and Mr. Vernon does not give out 500 word essays to write when they act up … they either get pummeled or tortured. But all is not lost, since the kids have found a friend in the form of Maureen Alvorson (a woman that re-stocks the vending machine that offers cigarette-type looking candies and alcohol … yes, you read right, among other things). The bad news, in all this, is that the kids don’t know that mom and dad are dead. The really bad news is that Maureen has a sinister ulterior motive that is unknown to these desperately, trusting teens. The kids find out that the Institute is divided into two parts: The Front Half where the new “recruits” are initially deployed for the Guantanamo Experience and then … there is the Back Half where kids simply disappear and are never heard from … ever … and it also features are weird humming sound. When that weird humming sounds changes to a pitch somebody in the world dies … puppies (thankfully) are spared. Somewhere along the line, Luke finds out the fate of his parents despite the Institute’s attempt to isolate him from that information and decides to go Freddy Mercury … and break free. It is during his strange odyssey (which would explain the cover) from the Institute that he crosses paths with Tim Jamieson … and needless to say … the shit hits the fan. And this where I stop for I fear that I will be spilling some unnecessary beans. To say more would be a complete and utter tosser to spoil for everyone … so there.

It. Is. Premium. King. Grabbed from various goings-on in this messed up world King stitches together a frightening quilt of a tale (or is it?) that is bloody disturbing yet intensively-mesmerizing that’ll leave you clinging on to the edge of the covers, as you battle insignificant things like eating, sleeping and bodily functions … all the way the breathtaking conclusion. Though there aren’t any preternatural creatures lurking around, this just might be his most disturbing and frightening yet. Why? Just look around us. Need I say more. And some of us just might utter a silent prayer and hope that this stuff remains bound and condemned to the pages of fiction. Mr. King, you remain America’s scary yet delightful uncle. Jolly good show, my good man.

Truth be told, I’ve been reading a lot of Janz stuff over the summer, but I didn’t want to make it a Summer of Janz thing (though that would have been a wee bit cool). So I had to spread it out, a bit. The latest that I just read … nay …. Consumed was The Darkest Lullaby. Another dark, twisted delicacy that will most likely give most folks sleepless nights especially if they live next to wooded areas. Be warned.But enough with the blooming pleasantries and let’s get on with the bleedy review. Yeah?
Apparently when it comes to writing horror Janz, in some cases such as Lullaby, dispenses with the foreplay and goes straight in to it. And then eases back into the foreplay, and builds up to the final climax (both metaphorically and literally). Interesting? Never thought about that … oh, wait ignore that part, that’s just a detour … nothing to look at. Or analyze. Lullaby starts off with a young woman giving about to give birth (sometime in the 80s) and it ends with her baby being taken away by a Rasputin-type figure, named Gerald Destrangis, and strange woman into a forest. I know, not much and it doesn’t exactly give you the hibby-jibbies … except this Janz we’re dealing with here and in the first chapter (yes, the FIRST) things went from normal to downright dark and sinister. And just when you are about to brace yourself for the oncoming onslaught … we meet Chris and Ellie (Eleanor) Crane. Married for a few years and hailing from Malibu (and a crappy apartment), they moved to Indiana to settle in a large house with a lot of many acres of land. This house was inherited by Chris from his late aunt Lilith. And though Indiana is quite a change from Malibu, the living situation is quite an upgrade for Ellie, though the house does have some creepy aspects. And just when things couldn’t get any better, Ellie discovers she is pregnant, after trying for quite some time. Seems like the move to Indiana is a good omen of sorts … but, yes, this IS a Jonathan Janz book. Funny thing about Lilith (nothing major or significant): prior to her passing she was part of an unholy cult that dabbled in blasphemous, dark rituals that involved sex, blood and sacrifices (let’s say we’re not talking about chickens on this one). Like I said, nothing major or significant.
And then the strange stuff begins (yes, you read correctly). Ellie starts seeing strange things as she explores the creepy (but big house that could hold a nice nursery room for her child). In one she encounters a strange alpha-male type man that chases her, from a secret room filled with ghastly images, with sinister and/or carnal intentions in his wild eyes … only to have both seemingly vanish. Chris, on the other hand, is exploring the large property, a land filled with woods and clearings and even a lake … until he encounters a strange naked woman walking in the woods … and ends up succumbing to a strange sexual encounter that he can’t quite recall (I hear those are usually the best ones assuming they are consensual … or tolerable at most). Oh, another not-so interesting thing about Lilith: prior to her passing she hated Ellie (with a passion) and had a strong attachment to her nephew, Chris. How strong you ask? The kind of attachments that you read about in Penthouse Forum (or so I’ve heard). And yes, bloody gross. But there it is. Needless to say, Chris starts to slowly change (and not for the best) and seems to constrain himself to two activities: taking walks in the wooded areas and writing a book that he forbids Ellie to look at. Wait a minute, sounds familiar? Sexual encounters with strange women, change in attitude, “writing” a book, living in roomy building seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Red rum (minus the spooky twins). But if you think I’ve spilled the beans on this book you sadly mistaken. Not even close. On top of all things, there is a snarky real estate agent that tries to talk Ellie and Chris out of the property but for some strange reason wants to buy it. As the red flags mount, Ellie decides that it is time to leave, unfortunately the forces that be have other ideas and leaving that house is not going to be easy. To make matters worse (yes), Ellie sister shows up out of the blue and … the shit hits the fan. And it splatters red … and maybe a bit brown.
Lives intersect, and dark twisted secrets come to light in the dark … some sinister and terrifyingly deadly. And yes, there are some terrifying twists that accompany this Christmas tale, that WILL keep some awake for a few nights … or at least be wary of strange, naked women that you may encounter in wooded areas (hint: you might think of walking …nay, running in the next direction). Alas, Jonathan Janz has done it again: for some, another anti-sleep cure … and for others, a thirst for more of his terrifying fiction. Will this poor man be able to keep up with literary thirst he has created? Time will tell (and I hope this will goad him into spitting out more books). Caution to readers (because you’re my mates and all): don’t become attached to characters (trust me). .