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Unholy Alliance by Dana Reed

(2004 Archebooks Publishing)  Read more about the author & book here.

     Author Dana Reed, when submitting this book to me, insisted it was not actually a horror novel but rather led me to believe it fell more on the lines of a detective thriller or merely a work of suspense.

     A warning to all:  this was clearly not the case, not entirely.  I mean, suspenseful?  By all means.  A detective thriller?  Certainly, even to many degrees by definition.  With the utmost respect for those elements,

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inspects its interior, marveling at the exquisite architecture and the many archaic rooms, he discovers a full-length mirror of stunning beauty hidden in the depths of a sub basement.

     And the mirror sucks him in.

     He finds himself roaming the same property five centuries prior, at a time where its occupants were a wealthy family of high society overshadowed by two brothers whose images grace a vast painting near the home's grand staircase.  Their father is the town constable, who's been taking townsfolk heat from his inability to bring to justice those responsible for a mean streak of intensely brutal sexual murders.  Pressley finds himself witnessing enough of the events to be taken into the web of a fascinating mystery encompassing the house and the identities of the sadistic killers.

     Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc writes with conviction and beauty and carefully vivid detail, and I applaud her.  She casts an eerie haunted atmosphere like a fog bank through a graveyard in your mind which settles there throughout the read's duration, in a way not menacing but surreal like feeling for obstacles as you walk across a dark room and your eyes hadn't yet adjusted.  The detail in her work matches the craftsmanship described in the story concerning the contents of the mansion, and you'll feel almost as though you've been whisked away with Pressley through that mirror with him.

     Andrea has graced the literary world prior to this with critically acclaimed poetry and works ranging from goth to horror to related erotica, and her much-praised "Gothique--A Man of Two Worlds."  She's a part-time model, and you can photograph her beauty beside her favorite cemetery statue, any day.

     Pay attention to Andrea's works, she's a true literary artist. 

The Two by Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc

(2005 Lulu Press)  Read more about the author and her work here.

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(All reviews copyright 2004, 2005 by Nicholas Grabowsky and Diverse Media, all rights reserved.   All book cover images are owned by their respective owners and used by permission.)

     Pressley Barclay is a dark novelist whose works are successful enough to give him a large following and a degree of enough wealth to make him capable of purchasing a remote, centuries-old English mansion that nobody else wants when he tires of living in busy London. 

     Pressley is enchanted and awestruck with his new estate, with its statue garden, private beach, grove of fruit trees, rumors of the mansion's dark history.  As he explores and

 however, readers with an appetite for gut-wrenching, in-your-face, relentlessly psychological and shamelessly graphic horror, Reed's Unholy Alliance comes through with guns blazing and the stench of a body count rising to high heaven in the aftermath.

     In the streets of New York, a detective with a rattled past finds herself joining forces with a reporter harboring even darker demons from a life under an abusive father responsible for many of those demons as well as the loss of her leg.  Together, they hunt down the Necrophiliac, a killer who harvests body parts from his victims to keep the ever-accumulating number of lifeless members of his "family" he dwells with fresh and free from decomposition.  At the scene of each murder, he leaves behind a single glass rose.  This poses as a problem for the reporter when he leaves a rose for her as well early on, a chilling indication that she is not only next on his hit list, but as we discover later that he desires her to be his bride.

     Dana Reed has been down this literary road before, a veteran of this sort of thing with eight novels of horror as well as other works under her belt, and she has seen herself as a well-received teacher of writing and journalism.  Unholy Alliance, I might add, is the first in a series that promises to escalate in intensity and to further establish its unforgettable mark in genre literature.  Reed's skill and craftsmanship with the written word is enough to make for a vivid and frightening read when coupled with such a compelling storyline often lacking in today's overdone and overblown world of crime/suspense dramas.

 

Demon of Mercy by A. William Robinson

(2002 Aventine Press)  Read more about the author and his work here.

I   I, for one, wouldn't say Marilyn Reins is your average shrink.  Shrinks aren't supposed to indulge in carnal affairs with their clients.  Julian Marks, as far as clients are concerned......single clients whose tormented pasts haunt their nightmares and catch up with their waking dreams to bite them on their asses on a daily basis and could be responsible for extremely sociopathic behavior, such as a string of intensely grisly murders.....it stands to reason that Marilyn is more than playing

with fire, toying with her career, but fooling around rather dangerously with her life and the lives of others.

     Yes, unspeakable murders are being committed and, as detective Martin Travis explores each crime scene, he summons the assistance of an old friend who is involved prominently in the underground Jamaican crime world.  The nature of the killings inevitably gives the perpetrator the nickname "Demon of Mercy," albeit the method of each killing is by no means merciful.  What's more, there is talk that Marilyn's client Julian had a long lost sister who'd endured years of torment and sexual abuse at the hands of their father.

     Now, to begin with, we have here a sly, effectively-written little slice of crime/detective terror on our hands.  The characters are indeed, over the course of the read, vivid enough to carry the story to its fruition and utter climax.  I have a tremendous problem with the formula of the work, however, how its skeletal structure is almost a photocopy of countless other works of its genre boasting nothing that can make it stand out as exemplary.  Oftentimes, as in the case of sequences involving Julian's sister or crime scene descriptions, the shock value of its graphic depictions superceded the need to keep the story going and I found nothing wildly original enough to sink my teeth into.  Don't get me wrong, Mr. Robinson indeed has a talent enough to make it sinful to ignore, and I beseech him to spread his wings, take a deeper dive into the kind of story that can really stand out in a medium where that's really a hard thing to do.  Let's take the crime/thriller formula and start into new territory that no reader has read before, and I hope that's just what A. William Robinson will do next.