Coming of Age Amidst Sinister Experiments: A Review of Josh Malerman’s “Inspection”

Josh Malerman’s novel Inspection works on two levels. On the surface, it tells the story of two groups: one made up of boys and one made up of girls, who are both part of an experiment. With elements of science fiction, a subtext of mental games, and heavy doses of tension, the narrative partly behaves like a psychological thriller. However, there is much more at work under the surface. Inspection engages with complex themes: characters’ struggles to deny their instincts, the possibility of altering life’s regular progression in order to maximize intellectual development, and the effect of storytelling on human thoughts. When those elements take over, the novel fluctuates between a creepy science fiction adventure, a bloody coming-of-age story, and a horror novel. Malerman, a literary chameleon whose previous novels include the post-apocalyptic-novel-turned-cultural-phenomenon Birdbox, the bizarre and dreamlike Western Unbury Carol, and the strange and haunting Black Mad Wheel, offers here his best effort yet and cements himself as one of the most versatile voices in contemporary dark literature. 

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Where Landscape and Horror Converge: A Review of Ilaria Tuti’s “Flowers Over the Inferno”

Ilaria Tuti’s Flowers Over the Inferno is an action-packed thriller with a unique serial killer and a multilayered, deep, and incredibly entertaining main character battling at its core. Set in a quiet village surrounded by ancient woods under the shadow of the Italian Alps, this novel also possesses a superb sense of place and an atmosphere that places it head and shoulders above most of its contemporaries.

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A Winding Tale of Trauma and Secrets: A Review of Alex Michaelides’s “The Silent Patient”

Alex Michaelides’s The Silent Patient is a rare psychological thriller that plays with secret agendas while constantly inhabiting the realm of psychotherapy and trauma. There is murder and violence here, which makes it fit nicely in the category of crime fiction and offers fans of the genre a lot to enjoy, but the series of secrets at the core of the narrative and the revelations in the novel’s last act set it apart from most contemporary crime novels and make it a unique, memorable hybrid.

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Violence and Surveillance: A Review of Robert Jackson Bennett’s “Vigilance”

While 2019 is still young and there is a lot of literary terrain to cover before the end of the year, I can confidently say Robert Jackson Bennett’s Vigilance will be talked about in many best of 2019 lists as one of the most honest and timely book of the year. Unflinching in its portrayal of senseless violence and scathing in its critique of the country’s obsession with guns and distrust of the Other, this is a book that resonates.

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Detection, Memory, and the Uncanny: A Review of Cristina Rivera Garza’s “The Taiga Syndrome”

There are books that get so close to being sublime that plot becomes almost irrelevant. Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Taiga Sydrome has a plot, but it’s exploration of memory, the way it uses language to communicate the ethereal, and the dreamy atmosphere punctuated by scenes of longing, investigation of a mystery, and brutality eventually overpower everything else and push the narrative into a realm where plot isn’t always the most crucial element.

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The Unknowable Aftershocks of Violence: A Review of Jennifer Hillier’s “Jar of Hearts”

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On its surface, Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts is a thriller about a killer and those affected by his actions. However, the novel, which takes place on two different timelines, is a multilayered marvel that also explores the nature of interrupted love, looks at the result of trauma and dangerous traits that are carried in DNA, and shows the lasting impact a brutal murder can have on everyone involved in it. Furthermore, Hillier manages to pull off this plethora of elements while also entertaining with a carefully crafted, suspenseful narrative and by delivering a level of viciousness that will appeal to fans of hardcore horror fiction.

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A History of Vengeance: David Joy’s “The Line That Held Us” Reviewed

With his first two novels, Where All Light Tends to Go and The Weight of this World, David Joy established himself as one of the preeminent voices in Appalachian noir. However, he was clearly not content with that position. The Line That Held Us, his latest release, offers everything he already gave readers while commandingly treading new ground. While the narrative contains the sine qua non elements of noir and once again takes place within the context of rural Appalachian […]

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Cat Shotguns and Painted Lizards: On Sam Pink’s “The Garbage Times/White Ibis”

When you are reading an obviously autobiographical book and the author hits you with a passage about becoming a giant and using his cat as a shotgun to destroy a city, you have two options: you can stop reading immediately or take a deep breath and allow the writer to take you places you’ve never been before while fully aware that the person at the wheel may or may not be in full control of the chaos ahead…or their sanity. […]

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