‘The Haunted Halls’ by Glenn Rolfe – Review

***

Walking up the pool steps he sensed a presence. Something else was here, and he had the goosebumps to prove it; the room was freezing. Not normally a man so easily spooked, Edward grabbed a towel from the plastic chair he’d left it on, and made for the door.

Stepping into the long empty corridor he could see his own breath. The icy presence had followed him. Even the maroon carpet which ran all the way down to the inns lobby was cool beneath his bare feet. The immense chill permeated every available space around him, freezing every door handle in sight and sparking to light and intense fear in him. He broke into a run looking for the nearest restroom.

Edward reached for the silver lever, his mind two steps away from setting his axis permanently out of whack, and despite the icy cold beneath his palm, shoved the door open. He spun around to the other side, shutting out the cooling hallway of the Bruton Inn. Something followed me. Standing in the men’s room clad in nothing but men’s swim trunks and a tiny pool towel that wouldn’t fit a child, he waited.

He was shivering, his teeth chattering, heart pounding. He could feel the wooden door at his back growing colder by the second. The small pool of water puddled beneath his feet began to freeze before his eyes. He stepped out of the slick space his wet body had created and stood before the mirror face to face with himself, intent on talking some sense into the man looking back at him.

“This isn’t happening. This isn’t fucking happening. Get a hold of yourself you stupid asshole!” he sad through quivering blue lips. A series of cracking noises stole his attention. He gazed back at the door. The floor beneath it began freezing over, the ice reaching out into where he stood.

Synopsis –

The Bruton Inn, located outside of the small Maine city of Hollis Oaks, is home to something special. An icy presence has made its way from a dark past to the present day. Cold spots, shadows, and whispers permeate the halls, and guests are beginning to change.

For two front desk employees, Rhiannon and Jeff, the dark rumors are about to come to light. They call upon Lee Buhl, the urban shaman, and his connection with the spirit world to dig up the truth.

Will they be able to stand against this malevolent force? Or will they come face to face with something beyond even your most frightful dreams. Welcome to the Bruton Inn. The Ice Queen has arrived.

Thoughts –

The Haunted Halls by Glenn Rolfe is a paranormal story set in a terrifying hotel with a dark past. Strange and unexplained things have been happening for some time; dead bodies found floating in the pool, voices and shadows in the empty hallways, and cold spots that can make your bones ache. Rhiannon is a relatively fresh recruit at the Bruton Inn and isn’t yet sure if she believes rumours going around, but she’d about to find out they are more true than she could ever imagine, and her coworker Jeff can’t escape them either.

A smorgasbord of messed up characters, bad decisions, evil intentions, and violence, The Haunted Halls has as many layers as there are rooms at the inn. The only real set back of the novel is the large cast of characters. Between hotel employees, blow in guests, regulars, and those from the haunting past that created it, it was a slippery task trying to keep them all straight in my head. Fortunately, a lot of them do end up shuffling off this mortal coil by the end, so it gets easier as it goes along. But Rolfe still handled the challenge well and the core character have their own time in the spotlight to keep the story going.

A classic haunted hotel story, from a fresh perspective, The Haunted Halls boasts physical and emotional turmoil, somewhat immoral characters redeeming themselves, and definitely immoral characters getting what they deserve. And a few unfortunate people who get caught up in the chaos and mayhem in between.

An exciting read that will keep you on your toes to the very end, this novel is another great read from Glenn Rolfe.

About the Author –

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter from the haunted woods of New England. He studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, and many others. He has three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author of August’s Eyes, Until Summer Comes Around, The Window, Becoming, Blood and Rain, The Haunted Halls, Chasing Ghosts, Boom Town, Abram’s Bridge, Things We Fear, Land of Bones, and Slush.

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‘For Rye’ by Gavin Gardiner – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

Everywhere, knives; everywhere eyes.

She plunged trembling fingers into her worn leather satchel. Damned thing must be in here somewhere, she thought in the moment before her bag fell to the concrete flooring of Stonemount Central. The ticket collector’s eyes converged with her own upon the sacred square slip, tangled amongst the only other occupant of the fallen satchel: a coil of hemp rope.

They stared at the noose.

The moment lingered like an uninvited ghost. The woman fumbled the rope back into the bag and sprang to her feet, before shoving the ticket into his hand, grabbing her small suitcase, and lurching into the knives, into the eyes.

The crowd knocked past. A flickering departure board passed overhead as she wrestled through the profusion of faces, every eye a poised blade. The stare of a school uniformed boy trailing by his mother’s hand fell upon her, boiling water on her skin. She jerked back, failing to contact a shriek of pain. Swarms of eyes turned to look. The boy sniggered. She pulled her duffle coat tight and pushed onward.

The hordes obscured her line of sight; the exit had to be nearby somewhere through these eyes of agony. She prayed the detective – no, no more praying – she hoped the detective would be waiting outside to drive her, as promised. One last leg of the journey, out of the city of Stonemount and back to her childhood home after nearly thirty years.

Back to Millbury Peak.

Synopsis –

Renata Wakefield, a traumatised novelist on the brink of suicide, is drawn back to her childhood hometown following her mother’s ritualistic murder. Before long, she becomes ensnared in the mysteries of Millbury Peak as one question lies heavy: who killed Sylvia Wakefield?

As the answer draws nearer, as madness continues to envelop the quaint country town, Renata will come to realise that the key to all this insanity lies with one man—the world’s leading writer of horror fiction. His name is Quentin C. Rye, and he will guide her to the revelation that true madness lies within.

Discovering that the darkness of her family’s history runs deeper than she ever could have imagined, Renata Wakefield’s eyes will finally be opened to one single, hideous truth, which will awaken a long-dormant evil.

Thoughts –

For Rye is a dark and twisting mystery story involving a reclusive romance writer, her mother’s bloody and brutal murder, and a famed horror writer whose words were found at the scene of the crime. With layers of secrets and darkness, revenge and avenging, this is not a predictable story. Our protagonist Renata Wakefield, foiled in her attempt to take her own life as her careers wanes, is now staying to fulfil a long held promise to her dear mother; to care for her abusive father on his death bed no matter what. But the appearance of the mysterious writer Rye, the forbidden writer that may just have sparked her love of story writing in first place, may have just given her a new reason to keep living – to find out just what this mysterious romance thing is all about.

Rye himself, the boisterous American among the reserved English, is fascinated with the death of Renata’s mother, staged to look like a scene from one of his own horrifying books. He wants to get to know Renata, to help her find her mother’s killer, to give her new life. Little does he know that Renata’s life is a lot more complicated than he knows, her past darker even than a mind like his could imagine. And when his adult daughter Sandie shows up unannounced and determined to bring Renata’s works to the big screen as her leading lady, the danger surrounding Renata hits a little too close to home.

For Rye pulls you in with shocking events and complicated characters, and holds you within it’s pages with superb writing, a mix of genres, and twist after twist. By the end of this story you will not know who to trust, who to feel sorry for, and just how Gardiner managed it in the first place.

A darkly enjoyable read for any mystery lover’s out there.

About the Author –

Gavin Gardiner’s lifelong love of horror didn’t manifest into his debut horror novel, FOR RYE, until his early thirties. Between its completion and publication, he wrote a novella, several short stories, and a selection of non-fiction articles and analysis pieces. These can be found in various online publications and in print via:

www.gavingardinerhorror.com

Before he threw himself into the writing game, Gavin dedicated much of his teen years and twenties to the pursuit of music. Although the nightmares he’s since committed to the page have garnered more attention than his songs ever did, he hopes to one day return to music. The writing of horror, however, is here to stay.

He’s currently working on his second novel, Witchcraft on Rücken Ridge, and has grand plans for the future of his unique brand of horror. He very much hopes you’ll join him for the ride.

He lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his ever-patient girlfriend and ever-demanding kitten.

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‘Parting Shot’ by Daniel L. Naden – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

The shoe was on the other foot.

But the foot had become detached and was currently holding the intense interest of the zombie near the shed. Another zombie, one with a rather significant overbite, had wormed his way through the abdominal wall and gotten himself a mouthful of intestines. The overbite, however, kept his teeth from cutting cleanly. Now he was hopelessly tangled in what could only be described as a gutsy web of shit. A different knot of zombies must have, in their living lives, heard all the old leper jokes. Some were doing their deal-level best at trying for a face-off in the corner. Another unfortunate undead dude who lost his poker face was just about ready to throw in his hand. His heart was definitely in the game, but he simply couldn’t keep his head on the task at hand, or the hand at task.

From the depths of the shadows cast by the eaves looming over the backyard deck, I’d watched the undead tuck into Stine where they’d cornered him against the fence. When the first of them pushed into the backyard, I tried to hold him back to keep him from breaking cover. He heard them rattling up against the fence latch, heard the creak of the hinge as they forced their way through the gate, saw them shamble around the corner of the house, and just about shit himself. They got close to us, and Stine lunged away from me. I caught a fistful of his collar, but he twisted and shrugged out of it. Left me with nothing but the shirt off his back, literally, as he tore off across the yard.

I haven’t the slightest idea in hell what he thought he was going to do. Maybe he figured he could bull through them at the gate and escape to the wide-open streets. But he knew, or should have known, that wide open doesn’t exist anymore. There were just too many of these fuckers in the world. So, I dunno what happened. Stine was scared and just panicked, I guess. Maybe after all this time, it finally got to him. The running. The fighting. The hiding. The slow starvation. The loss of friends. The horror of watching the world die one mouthful at a time.

He ran.

Synopsis –

Brian has survived for ten years beyond the end of the world, but he’s not sure why. He’s not even sure if he cares anymore.

When the dead began strolling around and eating people, society was certain to collapse. Brian never realized how lonely a guy could be in a world with six billion hungry zombies hanging around. Or how empty a life of just surviving could be.

Meeting survivors in Brian’s world is dangerous. Living with survivors is almost suicidal. Zombies like large groups of people: the more, the merrier. Caring about people in Brian’s world is insane. How often can someone lose every person they’ve ever known or loved before they just quit trying?

When he hooks up with a new group of survivors, they all find a way to…well…survive together. After so many years, surviving is the easy part. The real challenge: can they find a reason to live? To love? Can they find a reason to hope? Can they remember how to laugh when so much of the world is dark and despairing?

Thoughts –

A short but memorable novella, Parting Shot is a post apocalyptic zombie story with heart. Ten years after the apocalypse and those still left living have figured out how to keep themselves hidden from the undead hordes looking to make a a meal out of them, but they’re beginning to lose the will to keep going at all.

When our protagonist Brian goes against his better judgement and teams up with a small group of friends he begins to gets that feeling again, the feeling that there is something still worth living for. But the monsters are just one step behind and they get closer every minutes. Now, when Brian and his friends actually want to keep living, they might just be the closest they’ve ever been to losing not only their own lives, but the lives of their new family.

Naden chooses his words carefully and in such a small amount of pages paints a poignant and enthralling picture of a world on the edge of annihilation. Through the strength and emotional connections of his characters, Parting Shot is not just any zombie story, it’s a zombie story that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from.

About the Author –

Daniel L. Naden has always been a writer. It’s an affliction, a blessing, a curse… a dominant part of life for as long as he can remember. He has published work in the areas of politics, humor, philosophy, and of course, fiction. Dan’s stories explore the irony in life, through the lens of horror, suspense, and sci-fi. His writing has appeared in great anthologies, like: The Best of Horror Library: Volumes 1-5, The Horror Library: Volume 2, Dark Distortions: Volume 1, and Our Shadow Speak, along with top-notch publications like Dark Recesses Magazine, Vault IX, Astounding Tales, Ragged Edge, and Montage. Dan’s latest novella, Parting Shot is here – from HellBound Books. Dan lives with his wife in Olathe, Kansas.

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‘The Caller’ by F. R. Jameson – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

Wexler had expected the lanky shit to turn and run. He’d hear the promise of violence in Wexler’s tone and save himself.

Instead the man took his own step forward. The two of them on a collision course. Whatever substance this idiot had consumed tonight, Wexler hoped it was worth it. This bastard was going to be nil by mouth got the next couple of months.

When the man stepped further into the thin light of the alley, it might have given Wexler pause in a calmer mood. However, he was too committed now. The man not only behaved in a clownish fashion, he looked like one. His beanpole frame was clad in a garish, old-fashioned suit, ruffles and all. It was bright red, apart from the brilliant white of those ruffles. Looking absolutely freakish, he genuinely could have been an extra in an old Adam and The Ants video. The man’s face was much the same elongated shape as his body, with his eyes almost triangular at the centre. But it was the hair which caught the attention. It was huge, beyond just spiky; he could have been wearing a crown of daggers. Each point so pronounced it might be used as an offensive weapon. More bizarre, it seemed to be the exact same shade of vivid red as his suit.

Synopsis –

Meeting him will make this the deadliest night of your life!

A series of bizarre, violent murders shocks London. The victims all seemingly unconnected, apart from the brutality of their deaths. Each demise is more gruesome than the last. A card, perfectly red on each side, is discovered with every corpse.

Jenna Driscoll, a young crime blogger, begins to investigate. But what she finds seems beyond comprehension. A supernatural demon summoned from the pages of an old horror novel, who will kill eight people across eight nights in increasingly horrific ways.

Every police officer and crime investigator in the city is drawn into the case, but there seems no way of finding him. Let alone stopping his carnage. However, Jenna is about to discover a far more terrible truth. That if you investigate deep enough, and gain his attention, you can add yourself to his bloody list…

As he is The Caller, and when he visits, it means death!

Thoughts –

Another dark supernatural tale from F. R. Jameson brings to life the story of a mysterious stranger in red, painting the town of London with blood. A series of murders begin, just as our blogger Jenna Driscoll suspects, and she is determined to prove that these seemingly unrelated murders are in fact the work of the April 29th killer.

Our protagonist Jenna is a passionate crime blogger, making a small living from her daily blogging of local crimes. A passionate and determined investigative writer, Jenna devotes her time to collecting sources and information on each crime, confident that the have something to do with the murders occurring every April 29th. So used to evidence and verifiable facts, when the possibility arises that a mysterious book and a fictional character within may also be wreaking supernatural havoc on those around her, Jenna struggles to marry her logical nature with the illogical events going on.

Jameson yet again has the reader gripped from the first paragraph. Captivated by enigmatic characters, and a protagonist that feels as real as the pages turning, the twists and turns of this story are just the icing on the cake. A supernatural murder mystery that will have you wary of any red playing cards you may find, The Caller is a theatrical and terrifying supernatural thriller that you won’t want to put down.

About the Author –

F.R. Jameson was born in Wales, but now lives in London with his wife and young daughter. He writes both historical thrillers and supernatural thrillers.

His books are, at the moment, mostly sorted into two different – but complimentary – series. The first, ‘Screen Siren Noir’, currently comprises of three novels: ‘Diana Christmas’, ‘Eden St. Michel’ and ‘Alice Rackham’. All of which tell the stories of beautiful British film stars caught up in Noir tales of blackmail, obsession, scandal and death. He is currently working on both the fourth and fifth books in the series.

The second series is more disturbing and scary, and lives under the moniker: ‘Ghostly Shadows’. Right now there is only one book published, a tale of supernatural revenge – ‘Death at the Shadows’. However, 2019 will bring four more entries to terrify and intrigue.

His blog – https://frjameson.com/ – is regularly updated with information about his writing, as well as film and book reviews. You can follow him @frjameson on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and you can find him on Facebook.

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‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ by Richard Ayre – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

The HS 748 began its final approach to Newcastle International airport. The landing gear locked into place with a clunk and the seatbelt lights flickered into life. The few passengers on board stirred thankfully in their seats. It hadn’t been a pleasant flight.

They had been delayed at Dublin for over an hour, the reason for which hadn’t been disclosed until a helpful, if rather naive stewardess, told a nosy passenger that there had been a bomb warning. According to the anonymous caller, the plane they were on would soon be blown out of the sky.

Maybe that wouldn’t have been so bad. After all, to fly, you have to place a certain amount of trust in the company doing the flying that it will do its best to get you to your destination in one piece. They wouldn’t let a plane fly that hadn’t been satisfactorily searched would they. Would they? But to make matters worse they had run into a thunderstorm just after that reassuring fact had been disclosed. Needless to say the rest of the flight had been disclosed. Needless to say the rest of the flight had been, to put it mildly, rather fraught. The panic stricken silence of the passengers was punctuated regularly with the lumpy liquid sounds of people throwing up and the unfortunate aroma of fresh vomit wafted up and down the fuselage, apparently oblivious to the air-conditioning.

While Phil Sturgess would not say he was unaffected by the violent motion of the small prop job, he at least had managed to keep his dinner down.

Synopsis –

Newcastle. 1988….
They say that music is the food of love. Reporter Phil Sturgess would disagree with this. He would argue that some music is the stuff of nightmares. Some music can literally tear out your soul and drag it, kicking and screaming, down to hell itself.
Sturgess loves rock music. He loves it so much he makes a living from it. But when he hears of a band called Minstrel’s Bargain, Sturgess’ life descends into horror. As the city he lives in succumbs to ever more violent and macabre episodes of grisly murders and barbarous acts of self-destruction, Sturgess begins to understand that there is something very wrong with Minstrel’s Bargain. Something very wrong indeed.
With time running out for humanity, Sturgess is threatened with an age old evil. And to stop that evil he is forced to confront the terrifying stranger who has been dogging his footsteps for months. The only question is; will Sturgess do what needs to be done? If not, the souls of millions will be destroyed.
Sturgess has to make a choice. Fight or flight? Heaven or Hell? Live or die? Whatever he chooses, it will be a Devil of a decision.

Thoughts –

‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ is the first in a musical horror trilogy of epic proportions. Spanning lifetimes and generations, the darkness in this story is a legendary and mythological one. Our protagonist Philip, a young music journalist with the world at his feet, becomes embroiled in the fight against this evil when his hometown of Newcastle is overrun with an obsession with a new rock band, and numerous and sporadic violent events. Finding the connection between these two things is the only way for Philip to stop them and save the people around him, but he is loathe to look to deeply into the shadows.

Reminiscent of ‘The Dark’ by James Herbert, ‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ is a succession of insanity fueled horrifying incidents, held together by the strange events currently affecting Philip Sturgess’ life. After listening to music of the new sensation that is ‘Minstrel’s Bargain’, a band from the states that has swept the airwaves like a tsunami, listeners may find that they have dark and violent impulses that must be sated – whether it’s their friends, work mates, or even their own mother who draws their eye.

Ayre’s writing is competent and enduring, giving each character just enough life to keep us interested before they are violently ripped from the pages. While cosmic horror-ish elements of the mysterious ‘tramp’ and the world which he inhabits did slow the pace of the book somewhat, overall ‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ is a novel that stretches across time, about an evil that annihilates everyone in it’s path, and the time honoured tradition of a chosen one who must fight it. And who better to take down an evil band than a music critic?

A horror novel about the power of music, and what can happen when that power falls into the wrong hands.

About the Author –

Richard Ayre was born in Northumberland too many years ago to remember, and teaches History for a living. His first novel was Minstrel’s Bargain, and he has also written Point of Contact, a Sci-Fi chiller, and A Life Eternal, a speculative historical novel. He lives in the North East of England where he continues to write whenever he can. When not writing, or putting children on detention, he can be found pottering around the Northumberland landscape on his motorcycle, Tanya.

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