Dave Zeltserman is a master of dark fiction -- the "noir" -- and his mysteries have powerful ties to Boston's underworld of mobsters and contract killers. His horror fantasy novels, though, come in distinctly different forms. I still haven't shaken the mingled chill and pity that I felt as I finished reading his The Caretaker of Lorne Field in 2010; every time I tangle with an overgrown section of my garden, I feel the nightmare of that story all over again.
This season, Zeltserman's new offering, THE BOY WHO KILLED DEMONS, looks like it might become the first in a series, judging by few threads at the finale. Narrated by 13-year-old Henry Dudlow, it's an investigation of how demons have invaded the world, with ominous intent. And this struggling teen, half smothered by his thoroughly unlikeable parents but lifted out of the mess via friends and his first girlfriend, has a terrible gift and responsibility that have arrived with puberty: He alone, among the people he talks with, can see the demons in their real and menacing form. They're after him, of course. And when he realizes what their goals are, not to mention how they pursue them, he knows he has to stop them.
If you know a teen who's already read a lot of Stephen King, and laps up horror and funky sex as if these were breakfast cereal, you might want to share this book with that teen. Otherwise, keep it for yourself (provided you, too, are a horror fan!) and enjoy the journey back to your own teens, as you keep Henry company.
Because I'm intrigued by the stream of Irish noir flowing across the Atlantic, I tackled the newly released US paperback version of Graham Masterton's BROKEN ANGELS. [This is the second in the series that began with A Terrible Beauty, later retitled White Bones.] Here too, terror and the grotesque are lined up, as Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire in County Cork heads up an investigation into the murder of a priest. The mutilation of the corpse -- well, actually it happened before death -- convinces almost all the detectives that the killing is revenge for child abuse inflicted by the priest, who'd been a target of unpleasant accusations. But as the death count and mutilations mount, Katie becomes convinced there's a larger and even more unpleasant reason for the string of murders.
I won't go into more detail -- partly to avoid spoilers, and partly because there's a lot of mixing of sex and sadistic violence here, some of which is truly horrifying (but no surprise to readers who may already have tracked Masterton's powerful but frightening narratives; he's a well-established author in Europe). This one's not for traditional mystery fans, but only for those who don't suffer nightmares or PTSD or loss of appetite among such horrors. Count on a fast pace, believable twists, and an investigator worth admiring. But also, consider yourself warned.