Book Buzz: What Lies Beneath

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Einstein Prophecy cover
Ghostlight cover
Hollow Man cover
Mark Pryor author
Robert Masello author
Sonia Gensler author

Book Buzz: What Lies Beneath

by Lucie Smoker

As the hot, summer sun sends us to shady air-conditioned spaces, we can’t help but appreciate the dark thrills of eerie stories.

Middle Grade Ghost Story

Ghostlight by Oklahoma author, Sonia Gensler

It’s summer at Grandma’s farm and 12-year-old Avery has been rejected by her older brother, too grown up for the imaginary world they’d spent years creating. A new kid staying in a nearby cottage, Julian, announces his plan to make a movie, a ghost story, and he wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden Avery to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, the allure of filmmaking is impossible to resist.

As the kids explore the secrets of the derelict mansion, the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real.
Sonia Gensler gets tweens and she writes that feeling of being awkward through the adventure. Highly recommended.

WWII Supernatural Thriller

The Einstein Prophecy/i> by Robert Masello

In the midst of World War II as the Americans retake northern France, art historian Lucas Athan follows a despondent Alsace mayor deep into an iron mine, passing desperate, skeletal people hiding from the war. And then:

“Mounted on four sawhorses, as if they were an altar, squatted the sarcophagus. Lucas didn’t need to get any closer to know that he had found his quarry— even from this distance, he recognized the gabled lid and sharpened corners, the iron chains sealing it shut. But because of a trick of the lights overhead, he found it hard to see any more detail than that. It was as if the box was bathed in its own shadow.”

At that moment, a land-mine explodes and the young boy who had followed Lucas, looking for excitement, for life in his war-torn childhood, is killed, Lucas survives but loses an eye.

As the sarcophagus heads to America on a Red Cross hospital ship, Egyptian archaeologist Simone Rashid is determined to keep an eye on it. She wonders if they know its secrets. As German subs attack, she finally finds the crate holding the sarcophagus:

“Simone’s back was pressed between the wall and the heavy crate, which threatened to slip its moorings and crush her. The wall was cold, but the box, strangely enough, seemed even colder; she could see her breath fogging the air as it loomed above her, and she could hear the ominous sound of water— rushing water—entering the boat.”

The ship gets to port, unbelievably, and while we encounter Einstein and Oppenheimer, their portrayals feel like cutouts. Somehow only Simone and Lucas can ward off the demon forces beneath the lid of this sarcophagus. Great storyline could have done so much more, but instead The Einstein Prophecy has all the depth of a blockbuster horror flick. I recommend it only as the literary equivalent of going to see Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer, but not as much fun.

Psychological Thriller

Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

An Austin prosecutor and nighttime wannabe musician, Dominic is also a psychopath. He doesn’t kill people normally, just wants a normal life—if that’s possible. Today he learned that his estranged parents died, leaving him only a guitar. At work, despite winning a big case, he’s being transferred from the job he loves, to juvie. Pay cut.

The only bright spot in his day is the girl in a green dress. He spots her outside the courthouse. He meets her at juvie with her thug brother. And when Dominic shows up to tonight’s free gig only to find out he’s been cut from the show, he learns she’s as sick as he is, maybe?

“Sometimes a man in a desert sees an oasis that isn’t there. Sometimes, it’s there and he’s not sure. But mirage or reality, the thrill is the same, the hope and relief he feels are very real. His feet pick up, his spirit soars, and his focus narrows. He sees a possibility and that’s all he sees, whether that’s reasonable, real, imaginary, or ridiculous.”

When the girl suggests stealing a van filled with $100,000 from a trailer-park kingpin on rent day, Dominic might be falling in love—psychopath edition. Mark Pryor takes us deep inside to find not only what makes these people tick, but how we might resemble them. A suspenseful ride with devious hijinks. Highly recommended.

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