Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill, Artwork by Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke and Key:Welcome to Lovecraft
by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
Hardcover: 152 pages
Publisher: IDW Publishing (September 24, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1600102379
ISBN-13: 978-1600102370

What would you do if you found a secret door that once you passed through it you turned into a ghost and were able to spy on the rest of your family? What if you heard a voice coming from the bottom of a well?

When their father is brutally murdered the Locke family moves in with their uncle at Keyhouse.  Tyler, the older brother, is sullen and brooding. Kinsey, the middle child, is trying to assimilate.  Nina, their mother, is slowly trying to drink her pain and loss away.  Bode, the youngest, is having more adventures than Tyler and Kinsey combined.  Bode has discovered a spirit at the bottom of the well, who he visits with and talks to.  He’s also found a secret door at Keyhouse that when he goes through it he becomes a ghost and can float around the house and spy on his family. 

Bode’s friendship with the spirit in the well turns dangerous when the well becomes a link to the prison cell that holds his father’s killer.  When Sam comes through the portal and tortures Bode’s family again, someone must rescue the family.  In the process, one of the special keys at Keyhouse is located and it’s used to open a special door that allows the owner to change their appearance; so little does the family know that their new found pal Zach is really Echo, the ghost from the well. 

Genre/Subgenre: Graphic Novel/Horror

Evaluation: 3-stars.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-shaped Box: A Novel
by Joe Hill
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; 1 Reprint edition (December 22, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0061944890
ISBN-13: 978-0061944895

Sometimes your past comes back to haunt you; sometimes thier stepfather do. And, sometimes, the best way to hurt you, is to hurt the ones you love instead. Find out who is tormenting Judas Coyne and why in "Heart-shaped Box" by Joe Hill.
Judas Coyne is an aging rocker; aside from music, his two favorite passions are groupies and collecting the macabre. His collection of the macabre includes drawings by John Wayne Gacy, a 16th century skull, a three-hundred-year-old signed witch’s confession, Alistair Crowley’s chessboard, and a real snuff film (which even makes him uncomfortable, but he cannot, for some reason get rid of).

He collects groupies too, never making a real connection. No sense in bothering to learn their names; he simply called them by the state where he picked them up, “Georgia” and “Florida” were his latest. When the relationship gets to a point where they want too much from him, Judas sends them packing.

One day Judas receives an invitation to bid on something so special, even he can’t pass it up:

"Buy my stepfather’s ghost…Do not think this is a stunt or a practical joke…The winning bidder will have something solid to show for their investment. I will send you his Sunday suit. I believe if his spirit is attached to anything, it has to be that."

When the UPS man delivers the suit in the heart-shaped box…a suit was not all that came; indeed, the ghost of Craddock McDermott had come along too. However, it wasn’t until Judas was up late one night that he realized that he got all he purchased and more. There, in his Shaker rocking chair, sat the ghost of McDermott wearing the Sunday suit and in place of his eyes were dark black scribbles.

Judas sets off on a trip with Georgia and his two dogs Angus and Bon to find the suit’s owner and get her to take back the ghost and the suit.

Genre/Subgenre: Horror/Paranormal

Evaluation: 3-stars.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs
by Jacqueline Winspear

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (May 25, 2004)
ISBN-10: 0142004332
ISBN-13: 978-0142004333

There is something not right about "The Retreat." Why do former solders, with disfiguring injuries, who have moved there to be better understood by living among their peers, renounce their surnames, give up their assets for the greater good, suddenly end up committing suicide?  Can Maisie Dobbs figure it out before it's too late for James, the son of Maisie's wealthy benefactor?

Maisie Dobbs mother died when she was a young girl and her father could not take care of her and, as was the custom of the times, he sent her to work as a maid.  It was there in the home of Lady Rowan that she was caught reading in Lady Rowan’s library without permission.  Unsure of how to handle the situation, Lady Rowan consulted her long-time friend Dr. Maurice Blanche. Maurice recognizes Maisie’s intelligence and takes her under his wing tutoring her, and teaching her the skills of his trade, private investigation. 

Maurice has retired, but still acts as a mentor to Maisie who now runs her own detective agency.   Maisie current case was opened by a husband suspicious that his wife may be cheating on him.  Through her investigation, Maisie learns of a retirement farm for disfigured war veterans, which sounds a bit suspicious for the veterans sign all of their assets over to the farm which is run like a co-op. It is only when Lady Rowan’s own son, James, is making arrangements to live at “The Retreat” that Maisie pursues her suspicion further.  Enlisting the help of Billy Beal, the handyman from her office building, Maisie devises a plan to investigate the goings-on at The Retreat.  Can Maisie and Billy figure out what is going on before it gets too dangerous for Billy?

Alternating between the story of the case that Maisie is working on and her time in serving as a nurse for England during WWI, we learn of Maisie’s true love Simon and their fairy-tale romance carried across the French battlefield by ambulance drivers.  We also learn of the harsh toll that war can take on the injured and non-injured alike.

Genre/Subgenre: Mystery/Historical Fiction

Evaluation: 3-stars.

The Last Child by John Hart

The Last Child:A Novel
by John Hart
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1 Reprint edition (March 9, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0312642369
ISBN-13: 978-0312642365

After the disappearance of his 13-year-old twin sister, Johnny mounts his bike in an effort to scour the county to find her. He will stop at nothing to find her; including spying on the county’s known pedophiles.  Will Johnny find in himself in more trouble or will he find out what happened to his sister?

Johnny is beside himself at the loss of his twin sister, Alyssa.  The police have no leads.  His father feeling guilty that he didn’t pick Alyssa up at the library feels responsible for her disappearance takes off, leaving Johnny and his mother alone.  Johnny’s mother so distraught is kept in a drugged and catatonic state by her new boyfriend, Ken.  With no one on the trail of what happened to Alyssa, Johnny takes up the quest himself.  He rides his bike crisscrossing the county using maps from the library he spies on the town pedophiles knowing that one of them must be responsible.  He is sometimes aided by his best friend Jack.  Also haunted by Alyssa’s disappearance is Detective Hunt.  Hunt’s was the lead detective on the case, and his obsession over the department’s inability to find Alyssa destroys his marriage and his relationship with his son. 

The violent death of a local professor and his dying words spur on Johnny’s quest to find Alyssa, for the man is clutching a piece of the clothing Alyssa was wearing when she disappeared.  Johnny’s continued pursuit of the case brings him face to face with danger, makes him truant in school, and lands him in the hospital.  But will it land him any closer to finding out the truth about Alyssa?

Genre/Subgenre: Suspense/Mystery

Evaluation: 4-stars.

The Summer of the Big Bachi

The Summer of the Big Bachi
by Naomi Hirahara
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Dell (January 29, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0440241545
ISBN-13: 978-0440241546

Annotation/Flashtalk:“In Japanese, bachi was when you snapped at your wife, and then tripped on a rock in the driveway. You didn’t suffer your punishment in another lifetime, but within the same life, even within the next few minutes.” This is the first thought that came to mind when Mas Arai heard that Joji Haneda was dead.

Mas Arai, a mild-mannered gardener to some of the finest homes in Pasadena, is forced to play detective when a well-dressed man from Japan shows up at the local lawnmower shop asking questions about people and events from Mas’ childhood in Japan. Many of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the hibakusha, who immigrated to America, live quiet and unsuspecting lives; however, now, memories are unearthed by this unsuspecting visitor, and lives are put in danger. It is up to Mas to get to the bottom of it all, but is it for the love of his friends, or because he is protecting himself from his own bachi?

The tale is filled with Japanese phrases and some Japanese-accented English.