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Spooky Halloween Books Round-Up

October 29, 2008

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky

by Elizabeth Willse, for the Newark Star-Ledger, October 26, 2008

710 words

DEVIL BONES
Kathy Reichs Scribner, 310 pp., $25.95

Kathy Reichs’ 11th Temperance Brennan novel will satisfy longtime fans, intrigue new readers and offer plenty of macabre twists for the spooky season.

Renovations of an old house uncover a strange array of objects: a cauldron, animal remains, mystic symbols and a human skull. Tempe Brennan’s research links the objects to Santeria, a tradition that borrows from African and Latin A body washes up on the riverbank, naked, decapitated and carved with Satanic symbols. Although Brennan knows the traditions are unrelated, she wonders if the incidents are linked.

Brennan’s narration keeps the tension moving, both in the mystery and in her complex personal life. First-time readers arriving via the Fox television series “Bones” may be confused by the older, more caustic Tempe Brennan character, working with Charlotte, N.C., law enforcement instead of with the FBI in Washington.
But Reichs places her readers in the life of an older Brennan working solo. — Elizabeth Willse

INFECTED
Scott Sigler
Three Rivers Press, 400 pp.,
$13.95 paperback

This adrenaline-fueled, gruesome thrill ride of a debut tells a horrifying tale of a new disease that not only covers its victims in triangle-shaped welts, but also reaches into their minds, whispering horrible, murderous compulsions. Is it a disease or a new species bent on human destruction?

It starts as a few the skin. But the disease escalates, compelling victims to paranoid delusions and even murder.

Perry Dawes isn’t going to bother the doctors about a weird rash. But when the blue triangles appear and begin to whisper their scary desires, Perry is angry. He resolves to not lay out the welcome mat for the invaders.

This vivid, violent gore fest packs the visceral horror of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and taps into modern fears of terrorism and mad science. Not for the squeamish, but adrenaline junkies with a taste for mayhem and science will be riveted. — E.W.

VAMPIRE ZERO:
A GRUESOME VAMPIRE TALE

David Wellington
Three Rivers Press, 320 pp.,
13.95 paperback

This gritty tale infuses a police procedural with grisly vampire lore. Jameson Arkeley, the nation’s foremost expert on vampires, taught Laura Caxton everything she knows. To save her life during a battle against a vampire army, he gave up his humanity. Now, Caxton must chase down her mentor. But as the body count mounts, she realizes he’s murdering his own loved ones.

Wellington uses Caxton’s point of view and rural Pennsylvania towns to crank up the suspense.

Readers beginning with “Vampire Zero” will be confused about character histories and relationships. Wellington only sketches a few details here, leaving the reader to puzzle out the rest — or refer to his earlier novels, “99 Coffins” and “13 Bullets.” But sparse descriptions keep the action fast-paced. — E.W.

DEATH: A LIFE
George Pendle
Three Rivers Press, 272 pp.,
$13.95 paperback

Absurd humor runs throughout the narrative, from Death’s childhood, raised in the pits of hell by his demonic mother, Sin, to a conversation with Phil the Raccoon as Armageddon approaches. Whimsical captions tacked onto classic paintings and woodcuts serve as a demented scrapbook to help tell the story, tongue planted firmly in skeletal cheek.

The voice Pendle creates for Death is, by turns, skewering satire and endearing pathos. Pendle also makes hilarious use of self-help jargon, particularly in Death’s early childhood, as Death seeks the affection of his father, Satan, Lord of Lies.

Death’s memoirs and misadventures have a distinctly British absurdity. “Monty Python” fans will laugh out loud. — E.W.

DARK BANQUET: BLOOD AND
THE CURIOUS LIVES OF BLOOD
FEEDING CREATURES

Bill Schutt
Illustrations by Patricia J. Wynne
Harmony Books, 325 pp., $25.95

From the biology and myths of vampire bats to the history of leeches in medicine, this wide-ranging scientific study of sanguivores (blood-feeding creatures) is packed with fascinating facts and anecdotes. Schutt brings together historical accounts, science and stories from his own travels to inform readers and untangle the truth from these animals’ gruesome reputations.

For example, only three out of the 11,000 bat species are true vampires, feeding on the blood of other animals. Thanks to Bram Stoker and vampire legends, scientists and zoologists of the 19th century were certain every bat was a spooky bloodsucker.

Other blood drinkers deserve their grisly reputations. — E.W.

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