1- “Death in the City of Light”–
“Death in the City of Light” chronicles one of World War II’s many horror stories. Author, David King meticulously researched real-world French serial killer, Marcel Petiot, who terrorized Nazi-occupied Paris, taking advantage of the tumultuous atmosphere for his own nefarious intentions. Petiot cleverly exploited the conditions in Paris under Nazi occupation, and he caused the horrific death of many who were already suffering so terribly at the hands of the Germans.
That sense of being aware that something terrible is happening, yet being unable to look away, is a feeling that builds throughout this compelling book, which includes photographs of the crime scene and of the farcical jury trial that followed. Petiot’s disturbing countenance stares out from several of the images, and details of his intelligence and charm reminds one of that fictional counterpart, Hannibal Lechter.
But, knowing that this madman was real makes the story that much more gripping, and his placement in one of the darkest times in modern European history made this read a captivating one.
2- “The Raven’s Seal”–
Clearly, author Andrei Baltakmens is a fan of Charles Dickens, as his scholarly credentials support and his writing style exudes; readers are the better for it. For fans of Victorian and Revolutionary era classics, “The Raven’s Seal” will be right up your alley… as long as it is a dark and creepy Airenchester alley. Intelligent and richly woven, this novel will bring to mind Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas, and of course, Dickens, as the author drives the narrative deep into the heart of a fictional British city’s Victorian underbelly, with its cutpurses, prostitutes, and the fallen upperclass hero, whose fortunes turn when he is wrongfully accused of a ghastly murder. Bellstrom Gaol, which no man, woman, or child ever wants to enter, becomes the backdrop for this vivid portrayal of 18th Century England’s urban landscape.
3- “The Strain”–
Calling all vampire lovers… or haters, more appropriately. “The Strain” is no “Twilight.” The first in a trilogy by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro (of Pan’s Labyrinth fame), “The Strain” is creepy, dark, violent, and fast-paced, as well as very cinematic. Manhattan is in the grip of an epidemic never imagined, after an airplane, laden with dead passengers goes dark on the tarmac. Something evil is unleashed, and in true Hollywood fashion, a doomsday scenario must be averted by an average citizen who finds himself at the head of an unlikely group of people who recognize what is really at stake. This is a modern day “Dracula.” It is now a TV series on FX.
4- “Before I Go To Sleep”–
“Before I Go to Sleep” is a gripping psychological thriller by S.J. Watson that grabs the reader from the first page all the way to the end, just as a good book should. Very cinematic throughout, this fast-paced narrative is reminiscent of movies like “Dead Again,” “Secret Window,” and oddly enough, “Groundhog Day,” though without the humor.
Imagine waking up each morning not knowing who you are, having only the hours of that day to figure it all out before you go to sleep, just to start over from square one again the next day. Cleverly crafted and haunting, this book has the reader puzzling through the mysteries that arise from the fascinating premise. Though the medical condition is a truly terrifying reality for some, this novel supplies a rich subject for a disturbingly alluring read. Look for it in theaters, too.
5- “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”–
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” by Ransom Riggs, is an odd one indeed, but enjoyably so. This quirky tale of love and adventure is mingled with a bizarre and somewhat creepy assortment of vintage photographs, and it is these images that truly make the book extraordinary.
The story on its own is nothing special, in fact it is a tad rambling and disjointed. Rather, it is the presence of the many photos, assembled by the author from the collections of real people, that really adds quite an wonderful perspective to the story. One wonders if the author simply spread out all the photos and built the story entirely around the images, or if a framework for the adventure already existed.
Either way, “Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children” is worth a read, especially if you are craving something a little… peculiar.