My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


Leave a comment

Review: The Whisper Man

When a writer and his young son move into the local village “scary” house, the boy becomes the target of an insidious child killer. This creepy thriller will ensure that you don’t leave your doors half-open…or “soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…”

The Whisper Man—Alex North, 2019.  Rating 4/5

Tom Kennedy and his son, Jake, are grieving the death of wife and mother, Rachel. Tom is an introvert, and still suffering from childhood memories of his alcoholic father. Now, Tom struggles to understand his own quiet boy. Jake is hard to reach; preferring to draw and talk to what Tom thinks are imaginary friends than to interact with other kids. Tom hopes the move to their new house will be a fresh start for them both. Tom has no idea that they have moved to the village where years ago, the infamous Whisper Man abducted and butchered a string of young boys—and the abductions seem to be starting again.

Career Detective Pete Willis is credited with capturing Frank Carter, the Whisper Man, twenty years earlier, but remains haunted by the memory of the one boy he never found. Now, with a new boy gone missing, Pete worries that either Carter had an accomplice, or a copycat is on the loose. Time is running out to find the new killer, who is already grooming lonely Jake to be his next victim.

The Whisper Man is a lightning-fast read. Alternating points of view between Tom, Jake, and Pete builds the tension to nail-biting levels as the threat to Jake incrementally, but relentlessly increases. North incorporates the barest touch of the supernatural into the story—just enough to give you chills. Characters are solid. Jake, especially, is relatable (well, to a fellow introvert) and sensitive. This makes his vulnerability more acute, and his danger more nerve wracking. Frank Carter, now a prison kingpin, is terrifyingly slimy. Tom, working through his own father-issues and grief, has both selfish and whiny tendencies, but knows he is a flawed father. At the same time, his love for Jake is complete.

North adds layers of complexity to the plot by skillfully exploring father-son relationships and deeper issues of forgiveness, self-worth, and self-acceptance. The only off-note in the book is the change in perspectives: Tom and Jake both narrate from the first-person, while the stories of Pete and lead investigator Amanda Beck are told in the third person. The switches are just jarring enough that I never quite got used to them. That cavil aside, The Whisper Man is both a satisfying, if disturbing, thriller, and an affirmation of the power of love.

rating system four crows


Leave a comment

Review: The Devil Aspect

Everyone has the potential for evil, according to Carl Jung. Psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Kosárek agrees. He has revolutionary plans to expose this Devil Aspect in six of Czechoslovakia’s most notorious serial killers. But will Kosárek’s findings come in time to help the police stop a madman’s bloody spree? Keep a light on: This intelligent, profoundly disturbing thriller will have you physically looking over your shoulder while intellectually pondering the true nature of evil.

The Devil Aspect—Craig Russell, 2018. Rating: 4.5/5

Young Dr. Kosárek is eager to begin his new position at the remote Hrad Orlů Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The asylum, located in a forbidding castle with a dark history, has always attracted evil. Now it houses the Devil’s Six, the most violent madmen—and women—of the modern age. Kosárek ignores the unfriendly attitude of the of local villagers as well as the castle’s ominous legends and begins his narcosynthesis sessions. Kosárek fully intends to restore each criminal’s memories of their evil side, unify their dichotomized selves, and if not cure them, at least ease their “great sadness.”  Kosárek’s quest intersects with that of experienced police detective, Kapitán Lukáš Smolák, who is desperately tracking the infamous Leather Apron–a killer who is literally butchering German women in Prague.

The Devil Aspect is an exceptional read. On one level, the novel is a fast-paced police-procedural crossed with a psychological thriller, but Russell weaves in many other threads that add depth and color (dark, dark color) to the story. The setting is 1935, and Russell integrates the growing tension—fueled by the rise of Hitler—between the Sudeten Germans and the Czechs. Kosárek’s Jewish transcriber, Judita, foresees the coming cataclysm, and fears becoming a victim. Compounding the real unease of the political situation is the growing menace of sinister figures from Slavic folklore which assume terrifying reality as motivators for the Devil’s Six. Both Kosárek and Smolák also struggle with memories of traumatic childhood incidents that now inform their adult lives. What have they—and we—walled off to protect fragile psyches? An electric, unnerving read.

rating system four and a half crows


Leave a comment

Review: Intercepts

Intercepts: A Horror Novel—T.J. Payne, 2019. Rating: 4.5/5

Joe Gerhard works for the Company. He’s in charge of painfully forcing vegetative, sensory-deprived human “antennas” to gather intel on international bad guys. But one of the antennas tunes in to Joe’s family, intent on making Joe’s life as hellish as their own.  Payne’s uniquely arresting thriller is unputdownable.

The antennas were once human. Maybe a tiny part of them that isn’t insane is still human. Now, trapped in padded cells in a high-security underground laboratory, breathing gas that takes away all feeling, the antenna exist only to lock onto the Company’s targets. When sensation is briefly, excruciatingly returned to the antennas, they achieve a kind of focused remote viewing. Joe doesn’t know if the shadowy Company is military, government, or private, but they have the funds and the chilling ability to red flag—and disappear—people.

For years, Joe has chosen work over his family, although his work was always for his family: his ex-wife Kate, and his teenage daughter Riley. Joe has become inured to the suffering of the antennas, accepting their condition as a tradeoff for the greater good. Motivated by hatred and vengeance, one antenna, Bishop, has painstakingly fought her mental imprisonment, intercepted Joe’s mind, and found his weaknesses. Bishop drives Kate to kill herself and starts working on Riley. The teen struggles to fight the suicidal suggestions that Bishop plants in her mind. Joe will do anything to save his daughter.

That’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot because Intercepts is exceptional. You must read it and discover it for yourself—trust me, you will never forget it. The story rockets along—the suspense is agonizing because you have a bad, gut feeling of how things must end. (You might be wrong…a little bit.) Payne also doesn’t sacrifice character development for plot. You are emotionally conflicted because you empathize with both the antennas—even the vindictive acts of Bishop—and with good-intentioned dad Joe and his sensitive teen daughter.

Payne hits a contemporary nerve in Intercepts: His shocking vision is all-too possible. Horror, here, is the justification of man’s inhumanity to man…and what happens when the products of ethically immoral science strike back.  Intercepts is the first book this year to earn a place my end-of-the-year top five list.

rating system four and a half crows