It’s 1910 and Essie O’Neill’s widowed mom has married a doctor who runs a quarantine hospital on North Brother Island, the same hospital in which the infamous Typhoid Mary is under lock and key. The unsettling island haunted by a tragedy that occurred just off its shores, its hospital filled with the sick and dying, and the creepy old house in which she must live now combine with Essie’s wild imagination to create some truly freaky moments. And as afraid as Essie is of the things on her (very long) List of Unspeakable Fears that she keeps with her, as scary as it makes the book itself, it becomes something much more powerful and beautiful. Kramer has created in Essie a heroine who is wonderful, funny, relatable, and heartbreaking all at once. I was also a child with a lot of anxiety (that child’s still in me), and this children’s book has surprisingly provided me with some shelter from my own fears about the seemingly endless COVID-19 crisis. Maybe this book is a roadmap for not letting fear get the best of us: name your fears first, accept them, and then you will be brave.
You know those movies where the teenagers go into the old, decrepit mansion on purpose and then proceed to taunt the legendary ghost that’s said to be haunting it, and you just want to shake them and scream, “STOP IT! ARE YOU STUPID?” This book takes that trope and steeps it in Japanese folklore in a way that’s genuinely nasty and twisted with a specter that might actually give you nightmares. Khaw’s visceral descriptions compliment a storyline in which we feel build-up of a very bad thing coming, even as it’s intertwined with the relationships and fall-outs, the jealousies and bitterness, between the twenty-somethings all gathered together for a wedding (but why???) in the Heian-era house said to have been built over the bones of a spurned bride and over a thousand years’ worth of remains of girls who were sacrificed to keep her company. As the tension and fighting mounts between the wedding party, so too does the feeling that the dead bride’s ghost will be the ultimate winner in the end. And as bad as that might sound, it’s wickedly delicious fun. This book will sink its rotting teeth into you, and it will not let go easily.
30 years after the groundbreaking pulp mystery novel Work for A Million was first published, comics writer Amanda Deibert reimagines smart, tough, and independent private investigator Helen Keremos in a sharp and snappy crime story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Aspiring musical artist Sonia Deerfield has been receiving messages from an anonymous blackmailer and hires Keremos to protect her and get to the bottom of it. Are the people on Sonia’s team trustworthy? Is Sonia herself hiding something? Keremos sizzles off the page like a lesbian Bogart, catching the eye of women in elevators and receptionists. She flirts just as well as she catches bad guys, and she is fantastic at catching bad guys. The chemistry between our P.I. and the femme fatale she’s working for is endless, and the 1970s urban setting drawn by Selena Goulding makes you feel like you’re in an episode of The Rockford Files in the best way. If you’re into noir and want something that’s just as groundbreaking today as it was when it was first published, this is the graphic novel for you.
In a remote area of the Scottish Highlands, Inti Flynn and her team of wolf biologists have reintroduced wolves into the landscape in a rewilding effort. Amidst sometimes violent conflict with local farmers who fear the wolves’ return, Inti must confront the bleak and seemingly endless mess that is the present, while being haunted by the ghosts of her past and her own fears over facing her future. Inti yearns to stay in the wild with her wolves even as she consistently has to deal with humans, butting heads with the closed-minded, frightened locals and sparring with the enigmatic police chief after a resident’s disappearance is blamed on the wolves. But no battle she wages is as powerful as the one fought between her past self that believed in the good in humans, and the broken, pain-riddled, disillusioned person she is now. The way McConaghy writes that journey packs a multitude of intense, beautiful punches that you won’t soon forget. Her language as the mystery unfolds will bring Scotland’s frozen forests to life around you in this poignant story that’s both a love letter to wolves and the wildness of the wilderness, and to incalculably deep character exploration. It will leave you stunned.
With a satisfying mix of Stephen King-esque horror and the mind-bending science fiction plots Wendig’s known for, this book is a dark but shining beacon of deep and twisted storytelling. Long ago, married couple Nathan and Maddie Graves’s small rural Pennsylvania hometown was plagued by a sinister crime wave, and now that they’ve moved back with their teenaged son Oliver, it all seems to be happening again. Not only do Nate, Maddie, and Oliver have to fight to protect their family, they have to battle for their world and whatever else of the universe is left. Add to that a gruesome numbers-obsessed serial killer, dark forces unleashing chaos on humanity, and a realistically messy and ultimately beautiful family at the heart of it all. This book reads like horror novels of old, getting creepier as it unravels, but amidst the harrowing fight between good (albeit imperfect) and evil, The Book of Accidents is about the power and perseverance of love.