Mary Shelley would give it two thumbs up.

THE CHILDREN ON THE HILL

Inspired by Frankenstein, McMahon presents a number of “monsters” linked to a psychiatric hospital in the 1970s—and one contemporary monster hunter who must confront her past.

In 1978, Vi and Eric live with their grandmother Dr. Helen Hildreth on the grounds of the Hillside Inn, a private hospital in Vermont that specializes in “a holistic, humanistic approach” to healing the mentally ill. When Dr. Hildreth brings home a young patient named Iris, the children are both fascinated and repelled by her—especially the raised scars she hides under a hat. Iris has clearly survived some great trauma, and Vi agrees to help her grandmother by “treat[ing] [Iris] like a sister” and reporting on anything the girl reveals about her past. A curious child, Vi begins to wonder whether Iris might be the mysterious “Patient S” her grandmother has written about in secret case notes. Forty years later, Lizzy Shelley, a researcher and podcaster who has recently entered the public eye by consulting on the TV show Monsters Among Us, follows a lead that brings her close to a monster she’s been seeking for some time, a monster that abducts young girls while hiding behind local legends, a monster who is leading her back to Vermont and the Hillside Inn. Like Dr. Frankenstein's infamous creation, the novel is a patchwork of narrative voices and styles, combining Vi, Eric, Iris, and Helen’s story in 1978; Lizzy’s search in 2019; excerpts from a tell-all book, The True Story of the Hillside Inn; excerpts from The Book of Monsters, created by the children in 1978; and the voice of the Monster herself. Though the question asked is not a new one—“Who is the real monster? The creature being made, or the one creating it?”—McMahon succeeds admirably in building real chills and a surprising twist, offering a satisfying addition to the Frankenstein-inspired oeuvre.

Mary Shelley would give it two thumbs up.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5395-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Terrifying, primal, and very, very tense. Read it with your heart in your throat—but read it.

ONE STEP TOO FAR

Frankie Elkin, a miraculous finder of missing persons, seeks a man who wandered into the wilderness and was never seen again.

Last seen rescuing a missing teenager from the gritty streets of Boston, Frankie embarks from a bus in Ramsey, Wyoming, drawn in by the story of hiker Timothy O’Day, who's been missing for five years, and the last-gasp efforts of his father, Martin, to search for his remains. Frankie has some regrets about leaving Boston, but she's called to find those others have given up on. She manages to finagle her way on to the search party, which in addition to Martin includes a local guide; a search-and-rescue dog and her handler; a Bigfoot expert; and Tim’s friends, who were in the woods with him when he went missing. In the years since, they’ve moved on with their lives, but they are carrying guilt and secrets about the night Tim disappeared. As they all head into the unforgiving wilderness, it quickly becomes apparent that someone is deeply threatened by this effort to find Tim’s body. As she endeavors to draw the truth from each member of the search party, Frankie can tell that she's in over her head, and not only because she’s an inexperienced outdoorswoman. Could Tim still be alive and looking for revenge, or is there a more dangerous secret that someone would kill to protect? Gardner is incredibly skilled at developing tension and suspense; she’s equally skilled at slowly revealing complex characters and their secrets. Both gifts reinforce each other in this novel. If Frankie is out of her element, so are we: It’s not often that a thriller so deeply casts us into the darkness of both nature and the human heart.

Terrifying, primal, and very, very tense. Read it with your heart in your throat—but read it.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18541-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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