Monday 15 January 2024

Your dark fiction choices, January to June

Happy New Year to everyone. So, another 12 months of book writing dawns, or, perhaps more applicably to most of us, another 12 months of book reading.

Yes, that’s where we are with today’s blogpost. We’re going to be taking a good look at some of the most exciting dark fiction headed your way in 2024.

Because the info is not all out there yet, I’ve been unable to cast my rule over the whole next twelve months. Sadly, we must content ourselves with the next six, January to June. But don’t worry, because there are some hellishly interesting titles scheduled for release.

As usual, I’ve divided the material I like the look of into three sections: Crime, Thriller and Horror, and have picked ten for each section.

Because I haven’t read these books yet, and it’s therefore not possible to offer a review in each case, I’m going to let the publishers do the talking, posting the blurb from the back of each book as an apéritif. So, note that well. These are NOT Finch’s recommendations. I’m simply expressing interest in a bunch of forthcoming titles.

I should add as a footnote that there are many more of these lined up for January to June, but we haven’t got room to mention all of them. Today’s batch are those that most caught my eye while I was flipping excitedly through the listings online. Meanwhile, the second six months of the year, July to December, will be dealt with in the summer.

Of course, if in your eyes there are any painfully obvious absentees from this list, feel free to mention them in the comments section.


1. ANNA O by Matthew Blake (pub Feb 1 Kindle, Audible and hardback)


Not since the night she was found in a deep sleep by the bodies of her best friends, suspected of a chilling double murder.

For Doctor Benedict Prince, a forensic psychologist on London’s Harley Street, waking Anna O could be career-defining. As an expert in sleep, he knows all about the darkest chambers of the mind; the secrets that lie buried in the subconscious.

As he begins Anna O’s treatment – studying his patient’s dreams, combing her memories, visiting the site where the horrors played out – he pulls on the thread of a much deeper, darker mystery.

Awakening Anna O isn’t the end of the story, it’s just the beginning.

2. LEAVE NO TRACE by AJ Landau
(pub Feb 27 Kindle and hardback)

In a daring, brutal act of terrorism, an explosion rocks and topples the Statue of Liberty. Special Agent Michael Walker of the National Park Service is awakened by his boss with that news and sent to New York as the agent-in-charge. Not long after he lands, he learns two things - one, that Gina Delgado of the FBI has been placed in charge of the investigation as the lead of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and two, that threats of a second terrorism attack are already being called into the media. While barred from the meetings of the Joint Task Force for his lack of security clearance, Walker finds a young boy among the survivors with a critical piece of information: a video linking the attackers to the assault.

As a radical domestic terrorist group, led by a shadowy figure known only as Jeremiah, threatens further attacks against America's cultural symbols, powerful forces within the government are misleading the investigation to further their own radical agenda.

3. HAS ANYONE SEEN CHARLOTTE SALTER? by Nicci French (pub on Feb 29 Kindle, Audible, hardback and paperback)

On the day of Alec Salter’s fiftieth birthday party, his wife, Charlotte, vanishes. Most of the small English village of Glensted is at the party for hours before anyone realizes she is missing. While Alec brushes off her disappearance, their four children - especially fifteen-year-old Etty - grow increasingly anxious as the cold winter hours become days and she doesn’t return. Then Etty and her friend Morgan find the body of Morgan’s father - and the Salters’ neighbour - Duncan Ackerley, floating in the river. The police conclude that Duncan and Charlotte were having an affair before he killed her and committed suicide.

Thirty years later, Morgan Ackerley returns to Glensted with his older brother to make a podcast based on their shared tragedy with the Salters. Alec, stricken with dementia, is entering an elder care facility while Etty helps put his affairs in order. But when the Ackerleys ask to interview the Salters, the entire town gets caught up in the unresolved cases.

Allegations fly, secrets come to light, and a suspicious fire leads to a murder. With the podcast making national news, London sends Detective Inspector Maud O’Connor to Glensted to take over the investigation. She will stop at nothing to uncover the truth as a new and terrifying picture of what really happened to Charlotte Salter and Duncan Ackerley emerges.

4. ALL US SINNERS by Katy Massey (pub on Mar 7 Kindle, Audible and hardback)

Leeds, 1977. A chill lies over the city: sex workers are being murdered by a serial killer they are calling the Ripper, the streets creeping with fear.

Tough, sharp, but tender, Maureen runs Rio’s, a clean, discreet brothel in the city. She’s a good boss who takes great care of her workers - especially her best girls, Bev and Anette. The Ripper may be terrifying girls who work the street, but at Rio’s the girls seem safer.

But when Bev’s sweet-natured son is found beaten to death, a figure from Maureen’s past, DS Mick Hunniford, shows up at her door. Does his arrival herald danger or salvation? And who can Maureen really trust?

5. BLOOD ROSES by Douglas Jackson (pub on Mar 7 Kindle and hardback)

As the Nazis roll into Warsaw, a serial killer is unleashed …

September 1939. A city ruled by fear. A population brutalised by restrictions and reprisals. Amid the devastation, another hunter begins to prowl. What are a few more deaths amid scores of daily executions?

Former chief investigator Jan Kalisz lives a dangerous double life, forced to work with the occupiers as he gathers information for the fledgling Polish resistance. Even his family cannot be told his true allegiance.

When the niece of a Wehrmacht general is found terribly mutilated, Jan links the murder to other killings that are of less interest to his new overlords. Soon, he finds himself on the trail of a psychopathic killer known as The Artist. But, shunned as a Nazi collaborator, can he solve the case before another innocent girl is taken?

6. BLACK WOLF by Juan Gómez-Jurado (pub on Mar 14 Kindle, Audible and hardback)

Antonia Scott is the lynchpin of the Red Queen project, created to work behind the scenes to solve the most dark, devious and dangerous crimes.

In southern Spain, in the Costa del Sol, a key mafia figure is found brutally murdered in his villa. His pregnant wife, Lola Moreno, barely escapes an attempt to kill her and is on the run. An unusual shipping container arrives from St Petersburg in Spain with the corpses of nine women.

Now Antonia, with the help of her protector, Jon Gutierrez, must track down the missing Lola. But they aren’t the only ones – a dangerous hitman, known as the Black Wolf, is also on her trail. And Antonia Scott, still plagued by her personal demons, must outwit, out-manoeuvre, and, ultimately, face this terrible, mysterious killer.

 (pub on May 7, Kindle, Audible and hardback)

A Child Missing. A Mother Accused. Charlie Parker Is Their Only Hope.

In Maine, Colleen Clark stands accused of the worst crime a mother can commit: the abduction and possible murder of her child. Everyone - ambitious politicians in an election season, hardened police, ordinary folk - has an opinion on the case, and most believe she is guilty.

But most is not all. Defending Colleen is the lawyer Moxie Castin, and working alongside him is the private investigator Charlie Parker, who senses the tale has another twist, one involving a husband too eager to accept his wife’s guilt, a disgraced psychic seeking redemption, and an old twisted house deep in the Maine woods, a house that should never have been built.

A house, and what dwells beneath.

8. LONG TIME GONE by Charlie Donlea (pub on May 21, Kindle, Audible and hardback)

Thirty years ago, Baby Charlotte vanished. Today, she’s still in danger.

When Dr. Sloan Hastings submits her DNA to an online genealogy site for a research assignment, her goal is to better understand the treasure trove of genetic information contained on ancestry websites. Brilliant and driven, Sloan is embarking on a fellowship in forensic pathology, training under the renowned Dr. Livia Cutty.

Sloan has one reservation about involving herself in the experiment: she’s adopted. Grateful for a loving home, she’s never considered tracking down her biological parents. The results of her search are shocking. Sloan’s DNA profile suggests her true identity is that of Charlotte Margolis, aka “Baby Charlotte”, who captured the nation’s attention when she mysteriously disappeared, along with her parents, in July 1995. Despite an exhaustive search, the family was never seen again, and no suspects were named in the case.

Sloan’s discovery leads her to the small town of Cedar Creek, Nevada, the site of her disappearance. It also leads her to Sheriff Eric Stamos. The Margolis family’s influence and power permeate every corner of Harrison County, and Eric is convinced that in learning the truth about her past, Sloan can also help discover what happened to Eric’s father, who died under suspicious circumstances soon after he started investigating the case of her disappearance.

Slowly, over the course of a stifling summer, Sloan begins getting to know her relatives. Though initially welcoming, the Margolis family is also mysterious and tight-lipped. Not everyone seems happy about Sloan’s return, or the questions she’s asking. And the more she and Eric learn, the more apparent it becomes that the answers they both seek are buried in a graveyard of Margolis family secrets that some will do anything to keep hidden - no matter who else has to die…

9 THINK TWICE by Harlan Coben (pub on May 23, Kindle, Audible and hardback)

How can a man who’s already dead be wanted for murder?

This is the question sports agent Myron Bolitar asks himself when two FBI agents visit him in New York.

The man they are looking for is Myron’s former client and rival, Greg Downing. Greg’s DNA has been found at the scene of a high profile double-murder, and he is now the FBI’s main suspect.

But Greg died three years previously, Myron says. He went to his funeral and gave the eulogy.

The FBI are disbelieving, and Myron knows he has to find some answers – and quickly.

Could Greg Downing still be alive?

10. THE MERCY CHAIR by MW Craven
 (pub on Jun 6, Kindle, Audible and hardback)

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin...

Washington Poe has a story to tell.

And he needs you to listen.

You’ll hear how it started with the robber birds. Crows. Dozens of them. Enough for a murder...

He’ll tell you about a man who was tied to a tree and stoned to death, a man who had tattooed himself with a code so obscure that even the gifted analyst Tilly Bradshaw struggled to break it. He’ll tell you how the man’s murder was connected to a tragedy that happened fifteen years earlier when a young girl massacred her entire family.

And finally, he’ll tell you about the mercy chair. And why people would rather kill themselves than talk about it...

Poe hopes you’ve been paying attention. Because in this story, nothing is as it seems...


1. THE ASCENT by Adam Plantinga
 (out now Kindle, Audible and hardback)

Kurt Argento, an ex-Detroit street cop who can’t let injustice go - and who has the fighting skills to back up his idealism.

If he sees a young girl being dragged into an alley, he’s going to rescue her and cause some damage.

When he does just that in a small corrupt Missouri town, he’s brutally beaten and thrown into a maximum-security prison.

Julie Wakefield, a grad student who happens to be the governor’s daughter, is about to take a tour of the prison. But when a malfunction in the security system releases a horde of prisoners, a fierce struggle for survival ensues.

Argento must help a small band of staff and civilians, including Julie and her two state trooper handlers, make their way from the bottom floor to the roof to safety.

All that stands in their way are six floors of the most dangerous convicts in Missouri.

2. WHERE YOU END by Abbott Kahler (out now hardback)

When Kat Bird wakes up from a coma, she sees her mirror image: Jude, her twin sister. Jude’s face and name are the only memories Kat has from before her accident. As Kat tries to make sense of things, she believes Jude will provide all the answers to her most pressing questions:

Who am I?
Where am I?
What actually happened?

Amid this tragedy, Jude sees an irresistible opportunity: she can give her sister a brand-new past, one worlds away from the lives they actually led. She spins tales of an idyllic childhood, exotic travels, and a bright future.

But if everything was so perfect, who are the mysterious people following Kat? And what explains her uncontrollable flashes of violent anger, which begin to jeopardize a sweet new romance?

Duped by the one person she trusted, Kat must try to untangle fact from fiction. Yet as she pulls at the threads of Jude’s elaborate tapestry, she has no idea of the catastrophe she’s inviting. At stake is not just the twins’ relationship, but their very survival.

3. THE SPY COAST by Tess Gerritsen (out now Kindle, Audible and hardback)

Maggie Bird is many things. A chicken farmer. A good neighbour. A seemingly average retiree living in the seaside town of Purity. She’s also a darned good rifle shot. And she never talks about her past.

But when an unidentified body is left on Maggie’s driveway, she knows it’s a calling card from old times. It’s been fifteen years since the failed mission that ended her career as a spy, and cost her far more than her job.

Step forward the Martini Club - Maggie’s silver-haired book group (to anyone who asks), and a cohort of former spies behind closed doors. With the help of her old friends - and always one step ahead of the persistent local cop - Maggie might still be able to save the life she’s built.

The Spy Coast is the first novel in the Martini Club series.

4. THE FURY by Alex Michaelides (pub on Feb 1 Kindle, Audible and hardback)

There were seven of us in all, trapped on the island. One of us was a murderer ...

On a small private Greek island, former movie star Lana Farrar - an old friend - invites a select group of us to stay.

It’ll be hot, sunny, perfect. A chance to relax and reconnect - and maybe for a few hidden truths to come out.

Because nothing on this island is quite what it seems.

Not Lana. Not her guests.

Certainly not the murderer - furiously plotting their crime ...

But who am I?

My name is Elliot Chase, and I’m going to tell you a story unlike any you’ve ever heard.

5. EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD by Jenny Hollander (pub on Feb 6 Kindle, Audible and hardback)

Nine years ago, Charlie Colbert’s life changed for ever.

On Christmas Eve, as the snow fell, her elite graduate school was the site of a chilling attack. Several of her classmates died. Charlie survived.

Years later, Charlie has the life she always wanted at her fingertips: she’s editor-in-chief of a major magazine and engaged to the golden child of the publishing industry.

But when a film adaptation of that fateful night goes into production, Charlie’s dark past threatens to crash into her shiny present.

Charlie was named a witness in the police reports. Yet she knows she was much more than that.

The truth about that night will shatter everything she’s worked for. Just how far will she go to protect it?

6. THE NEW COUPLE IN 5B by Lisa Unger (pub on Mar 5, Kindle, Audible, hardback and paperback)

Rosie and Chad Lowan are barely making ends meet in New York City when they receive life-changing news: Chad’s late uncle has left them his luxury apartment at the historic Windermere in glamorous Murray Hill. With its prewar elegance and impeccably uniformed doorman, the building is the epitome of old New York charm. One would almost never suspect the dark history lurking behind its perfectly maintained facade.

At first, the building and its eclectic tenants couldn’t feel more welcoming. But as the Lowans settle into their new home, Rosie starts to suspect that there’s more to the Windermere than meets the eye. Why is the doorman ever-present? Why are there cameras everywhere? And why have so many gruesome crimes occurred there throughout the years? When one of the neighbors turns up dead, Rosie must get to the truth about the Windermere before she, too, falls under its dangerous spell.

7. MURDER ROAD by Simone St James
 (pub on Mar 28 Kindle, Audible and hardback)

April and Eddie have taken a wrong turn.

They’re on a long dark road, late at night, and they see a woman up ahead, clearly in trouble.

They stop and pick her up. It’s only once she's in the car that they see the blood.

And then they see the headlights, and at last, the woman speaks, her voice faint. “I'm sorry, he's coming.”

8. THE BIN LADEN PLOT by Rick Campbell (pub on Apr 23 Kindle and hardback)

A US destroyer is torpedoed by an Iranian submarine and Captain Murray Wilson of the USS Michigan is flown to the Pentagon to meet with the Secretary of the Navy. There Wilson learns that the Iranian submarine is just a cover story. One of the United States’ own fully automated unmanned underwater vehicles has gone rogue, its programing corrupted in some way. Murray is charged with hunting it down and taking it out before the virus that’s infected its operating system can infect the rest of the fleet.

At the same time, the head of the SEAL detachment aboard the USS Michigan is killed and Lonnie Mixell, a former US operative, now assassin for hire, is responsible. And that is only the first SEAL to be hunted down and killed. Jake Harrison, fellow SEAL, discovers that these SEALs had one mission in common - they were all on the team that killed Bin Laden. Or so the world was told.

As Wilson discovers that his mission is actually meant to cover up dangerous acts of corruption, even treason, Harrison discovers that the assassin is out to protect the same forces. Forces too powerful for either of them to take on alone.

9. EXTINCTION by Douglas Preston (pub on Apr 23 hardback)

Erebus Resort, occupying a magnificent, hundred-thousand acre valley deep in the Colorado Rockies, offers guests the experience of viewing woolly mammoths, Irish Elk, and giant ground sloths in their native habitat, brought back from extinction through the magic of genetic manipulation. When a billionaire’s son and his new wife are kidnapped and murdered in the Erebus back country by what is assumed to be a gang of eco-terrorists, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Frances Cash partners with county sheriff James Colcord to track down the perpetrators.

As the killings mount and the valley is evacuated, Cash and Colcord must confront an ancient, intelligent, and malevolent presence at Erebus, bent not on resurrection - but extinction.

10. ERUPTION by James Patterson and Michael Crichton (pub on Jun 3 hardback)

Two of the bestselling storytellers of all time have created an unforgettable thriller. A history-making volcanic eruption is about to destroy the Big Island of Hawaii. But a secret held for decades by the military is more terrifying than the volcano.

Michael Crichton, creator of Jurassic Park and Westworld, had a passion project he’d been pursuing for years ahead of his untimely death. Knowing how special it was, his widow held back his notes and the partial manuscript till she found the right author to complete it.

The author she chose is the world’s most popular storyteller: James Patterson. Eruption brings the pace of Patterson to the concept of Crichton - the most anticipated mega-thriller in years.


1. AMONG THE LIVING by Tim Lebbon 
(pub on Feb 6, Kindle and paperback)

Estranged friends Dean and Bethan meet after five years apart when they are drawn to a network of caves on a remote Arctic island. Bethan and her friends are environmental activists, determined to protect the land. But Dean’s group’s exploitation of rare earth minerals deep in the caves unleashes an horrific contagion that has rested frozen and undisturbed for many millennia. Fleeing the terrors emerging from the caves, Dean and Bethan and their rival teams undertake a perilous journey on foot across an unpredictable and volatile landscape. The ex-friends must learn to work together again if they’re to survive ... and more importantly, stop the horror from spreading to the wider world.

2. THE HOLY TERRORS by Simon R Green (pub on Feb 6 Kindle and hardback)

Welcome to Spooky Time, the hit TV ghost-hunting show where the horror is scripted ... and the ratings are declining rapidly. What better way to up the stakes - and boost the viewership - than by locking a select group of Z-list celebrities up for the night in The Most Haunted Hall in England (TM) and live-streaming the terrifying results?

Soon Alistair, a newly appointed bishop, actress Diana, medium Leslie, comedian Toby and celebrity chef Indira are trapped inside Stonehaven town hall, along with June, the host and producer of the show. The group tries to settle in and put on a good show, but then strange things start happening in their hall of horrors.

What is it about this place - and why is the TV crew outside not responding? Are they even on air?

Logical Alistair attempts to keep the group’s fears at bay and rationalise the odd events, but there are things that just can't be explained within reason. Can he stop a cold-blooded would-be killer - even if it’s come from beyond the grave?

3. THOSE WHO DWELL IN MORDENHYRST HALL by Catherine Cavendish (pub on Feb 13, Kindle and paperback)

Evil runs deep at Mordenhyrst Halll ,,,

When Grace first sets eyes on the imposing Gothic Mordenhyrst Hall, she is struck with an overwhelming sense that something doesn’t want her there. Her fiancé’s sister heads a coterie of Bright Young Things whose frivolous lives hide a sinister intent. Simon, Grace’s fiancé, is not the man she fell in love with, and the local villagers eye her with suspicion that borders on malevolence.

Her friend, Coralie, possesses the ability to communicate with powerful spirits. She convinces Grace of her own paranormal gifts – gifts Grace will need to draw deeply on as the secrets of Mordenhyrst Hall begin to unravel.

 (pub on Mar 19 Kindle and paperback)

It is an unusual thing, to live in a botanical garden. But Simon and Gregor are an unusual pair of gentlemen. Hidden away in their glass sanctuary from the disapproving tattle of Victorian London, they are free to follow their own interests without interference. For Simon, this means long hours in the dark basement workshop, working his taxidermical art. Gregor’s business is exotic plants – lucrative, but harmless enough. Until his latest acquisition, a strange fungus which shows signs of intellect beyond any plant he’s seen, inspires him to attempt a masterwork: true intelligent life from plant matter.

Driven by the glory he’ll earn from the Royal Horticultural Society for such an achievement, Gregor ignores the flaws in his plan: that intelligence cannot be controlled; that plants cannot be reasoned with; and that the only way his plant-beast will flourish is if he uses a recently deceased corpse for the substrate.

5. THIS SKIN WAS ONCE MINE by Eric LaRocca (pub on Apr 2 Kindle and hardback)

Four devastating tales from a master of modern horror ...

This Skin Was Once Mine

When her father dies under mysterious circumstances, Jillian Finch finds herself grieving the man she idolised while struggling to feel comfortable in the childhood home she was sent away from nearly twenty years ago by her venomous mother. Then Jillian discovers a dark secret in her family’s past - a secret that will threaten to undo everything she has ever known to be true about her beloved father and, more importantly, herself. It's only natural to hurt the things we love the most ...


A young man’s father calls him early in the morning to say that his mother has passed away. He arrives home to find his mother’s body still in the house. Struggling to process what has happened; he notices a small black wound appear on his wrist. Inside, the wound is black as onyx and as seemingly limitless as the cosmos. He is even more unsettled when he discovers his father is cursed with the same affliction. The young man becomes obsessed with his father’s new wounds, exploring the boundless insides and tethering himself to the black threads that curl from inside his poor father...


Two old men revive a cruel game with devastating consequences...

All the Parts of You That Won’t Easily Burn

Enoch Leadbetter goes to buy a knife for his husband to use at a forthcoming dinner party. He encounters a strange shopkeeper who draws him into an intoxicating new obsession and sets him on a path towards mutilation and destruction ...

6. ALL THE FIENDS OF HELL by Adam LG Nevill (pub on Apr 2 Kindle and paperback)

The red night of bells heralds global catastrophe. Annihilation on a biblical scale.

Seeing the morning is no blessing. The handful of scattered survivors are confronted by blood-red skies and an infestation of predatory horrors that never originated on earth. An occupying force intent on erasing the remnants of animal life from the planet.

Across the deserted landscapes of England, bereft of infrastructure and society, the overlooked can either hide or try to outrun the infernal hunting terrors. Until a rumour emerges claiming that the sea may offer an escape.

Ordinary, unexceptional, directionless Karl, is one of the few who made it through the first night. In the company of two orphans, he flees south. But only into horrifying revelations and greater peril, where a transformed world and expanding race of ravening creatures await. Driven to the end of the country and himself, he must overcome alien and human malevolence and act in ways that were unthinkable mere days before.

 (pub on Apr 9 Kindle, Audible and hardback)

Space exploration can be lonely and isolating.

Psychologist Dr Ophelia Bray has dedicated her life to the study and prevention of ERS - a space-based condition most famous for a case that resulted in the brutal murders of twenty-nine people. When she’s assigned to a small exploration crew, she’s eager to make a difference. But as they begin to establish residency on an abandoned planet, it becomes clear that crew is hiding something.

While Ophelia focuses on her new role, her crewmates are far more interested in investigating the eerie, ancient planet and unraveling the mystery behind the previous colonisers’ hasty departure than opening up to her.

That is, until their pilot is discovered gruesomely murdered. Is this Ophelia’s worst nightmare starting - a wave of violence and mental deterioration from ERS? Or is it something more sinister?

Terrified that history will repeat itself, Ophelia and the crew must work together to figure out what’s happening. But trust is hard to come by… and the crew isn’t the only one keeping secrets.

8. YOU LIKE IT DARKER by Stephen King (pub on May 21, Kindle, Audible and hardback)

“You like it darker? Fine, so do I,” writes Stephen King in the afterword to this magnificent new collection of twelve stories that delve into the darker part of life - both metaphorical and literal. King has, for half a century, been a master of the form, and these stories, about fate, mortality, luck, and the folds in reality where anything can happen, are as rich and riveting as his novels, both weighty in theme and a huge pleasure to read. King writes to feel “the exhilaration of leaving ordinary day-to-day life behind”, and in You Like it Darker, readers will feel that exhilaration too, again and again.

Two Talented Bastids explores the long-hidden secret of how the eponymous gentlemen got their skills. In Danny Coughlin’s Bad Dream, a brief and unprecedented psychic flash upends dozens of lives, Danny’s most catastrophically. In Rattlesnakes, a sequel to Cujo, a grieving widower travels to Florida for respite and instead receives an unexpected inheritance - with major strings attached. In The Dreamers, a taciturn Vietnam vet answers a job ad and learns that there are some corners of the universe best left unexplored. The Answer Man asks if prescience is good luck or bad and reminds us that a life marked by unbearable tragedy can still be meaningful.

9. WHEN I LOOK AT THE SKY, ALL I SEE ARE STARS by Steve Stred (pub on Jun 24 Kindle and paperback)

Dr. Rachel Hoggendorf has seen it all. An accomplished psychiatrist, she’s always prided herself on connecting to the patients who’ve been brought to the facility, no matter how difficult or closed-off they are. That is, until David arrives.

At first, she listens to what David has to say. How he claims to be four-hundred years old and possessed by a demon. She diagnosis him as having multiple personalities and approaches his treatment as such.

But as their time together continues, David begins to share details he shouldn’t know and begins to lash out violently. When Rachel brings in her colleague Dr. Dravendash, David’s behavior escalates and it’s not long before they begin to wonder if David just might be telling the truth. That he’s possessed by a demonic presence ... and it wants out.

10. INCIDENTS AROUND THE HOUSE by Josh Malerman (pub on Jun 25 hardback)

To eight-year-old Bela, her family is her world. There’s Mommy, Daddo, and Grandma Ruth. But there is also Other Mommy, a malevolent entity who asks her every day: “Can I go inside your heart?”

When horrifying incidents around the house signal that Other Mommy is growing tired of asking Bela the question over and over, Bela understands that unless she says yes, her family will soon pay.

Other Mommy is getting restless, stronger, bolder. Only the bonds of family can keep Bela safe, but other incidents show cracks in her parents’ marriage. The safety Bela relies on is about to unravel.

But Other Mommy needs an answer.

Monday 8 January 2024

BATTLE LORD hits the bookshelves today

Today, I’m delighted to announce that BATTLE LORD is published. It’s the second volume in the WULFBURY CHRONICLES, my saga of 1066 and the Norman Conquest of England. This will need to be a quick blogpost today because there is so much to do, and so after a swift recap on the story so far, I’ll hit you with all the main characters in the series as it currently stands.

As a quick footnote to today’s intro, I apologise if anyone has tuned in to this blog today looking for the latest installment in Thrillers, Chillers. Alas, as I mentioned last autumn, those detailed book reviews were taking up an awful lot of time. Time that could be more valuably spent writing new material of my own, so from the start of this year, I’ve discontinued Thrillers, Chillers. That does not mean that I won’t be mentioning new titles I’ve enjoyed now and then, but any reviews that do make this column from now on will be short, sharp and succinct.

Now we roll back the centuries until a whole millennium has passed, and face the oncoming storm of ...

The Norman Conquest

I’m obviously not going to say too much today about the synopsis of BATTLE LORD, for fear of giving away spoilers before you’ve already read it. But suffice to say that it picks up where USURPER left off. Those who’ve read USURPER will already know that Duke William the Bastard’s conquest of England is already in full swing. The battle of Hastings has been fought and lost, and the flower of the English thegnhood lies slaughtered on Senlac Ridge. 

But Duke William hasn’t captured the kingdom yet. Among his prisoners is Cerdic Aelfricsson, 17-year-old heir to the earldom of Ripon, whose ancestral home lies far to the north but is already occupied by a surviving remnant of the great Viking army of Harald Hardraada, which arrived in England a couple of weeks before the Normans and was destroyed by the ill-fated King Harold Godwinson at the battle of Stamford Bridge. Cerdic’s future looks bleak. The Normans are harsh masters, and have only spared him thanks to his promise that his title and lands can be theirs if they will allow him to show them the way. If nothing else though, Cerdic has found a kindred spirit in Yvette, a pretty Norman maiden who is also a hostage, as her father, Count Rodric d’Hiemois is an avowed enemy of Duke William.

For those who still need persuading, here is a breakdown of the key characters in the series so far:

Cerdic Aelfricsson: The main protagonist in both USURPER and BATTLE LORD. Cerdic, as second son to Earl Rothgar of Ripon, is heir to nothing. In fact, he is reluctantly training for the priesthood when the Viking horde of Harald the Hardraada lands on the Northumbrian coast, and his entire prospective future is engulfed in a whirlwind of fire and destruction ...

Eadora: The ‘Flower of Swaledale’. A beautiful Saxon village girl, yearned for by Cerdic, but as she’s the unofficial lover of his older brother, Unferth, he can only yearn from afar. As a ceorl, her relationship with the lord of the manor’s eldest son is obviously fraught with difficulty, though all that will pale to insignificance when Harald the Hardraada’s Vikings invade the Northumbrian shore …

Rothgar Aelfricsson, the Earl of Ripon: A great Saxon lord, respected across Northumbria for his warrior past but also for his reputation as a man of wisdom and justice. He and his younger son, Cerdic, are at odds over Rothgar’s decision to send the lad to the Church, but before that happens, the autumn of 1066 explodes with a war on two fronts, Harald the Hardraada’s Viking invasion of England in the north, and William of Normandy’s invasion in the south. As one of the key leaders of his people, Rothgar is caught in the middle …

Aethelric: Earl Rothgar’s chaplain and Cerdic’s teacher and mentor, a gentle Saxon priest who is also hugely well-educated. Much of this he has imparted to Cerdic at an early age, ensuring the lad is not just literate and numerate but multi-lingual. He also has a broader political acumen than most of those in his calling, and shares deeply in Earl Rothgar’s concern that the England they’ve known and loved for so long is about to change dramatically for the worse.

Oswalda: The Saxon village woman who, as midwife and wetnurse, helped raise Cerdic after his own mother died while bringing him into the world. As such, her status has been raised by Earl Rothgar and she and her husband live on their own small farm. She remains a key figure in Cerdic’s life and is probably the person he loves more than any other. Unfortunately, her homestead lies in the direct path of the invading Vikings.

Unferth: Cerdic’s older brother. A warrior through and through, and something of an arrogant, roistering rake. However, he takes his future inheritance seriously, and when the chaos erupts in the autumn of 1066, is more than willing to ride with his father to face the enemy in the field. His relationship with Cerdic is stormy, though deep down the older lad respects Cerdic’s courage and intelligence and feels that he is wasted being sent to the Church.

Brithnoth: An older village priest often at odds with Aethelric because he tolerates and even encourages some of the pagan traditions still lurking around the edges of Anglo-Saxon society in 1066. His position is based on a conviction that ordinary folk can’t be expected to surrender everything in life that once gave them pleasure. Aethelric considers this muddled thinking, and even dangerous to the Christian faith, but it will make no difference either way when the Vikings arrive, as they are respecters of no one’s beliefs save their own.

Aethelbere: The marshal of Earl Rothgar’s household, whose presence on the battlefield can inspire confidence in even the weakest of men. A senior housecarl with much experience, Aethelbere is devotedly loyal to his master and firmly in control of the earl’s military resources. But like his master, he knows that any man who fights in each and every situation will eventually meet a sword quicker than his own, and he can’t help wondering if that time is nigh.

Haco: Eadora’s older brother. A scheming, untrustworthy rogue, but also a natural opportunist who unashamedly sees Unferth’s relationship with his sister as a chance to make good, and when this backfires, looks further afield to find allies against those he believes have taken advantage of his family. As a ceorl, he isn’t much of an opponent in himself, but he remains a key antagonist in both novels.

Thegn Redwald: The commander of Unferth’s small troop of housecarls, and a widely travelled warrior, who, though he knows, respects and fears the Vikings, is far more worried by the prospect of fighting the Normans. Held captive by them for several months, he has seen the effectiveness of Norman knights in battle, particularly how much their superior training, weaponry and armour is changing the face of warfare in these violent closing days of the Dark Ages.

Harald ‘the Hardraada’: One of the most legendary of all Viking leaders. A highly successful warrior and adventurer, but famous also for his cruelty and barbarism. Rightly known across Scandinavia as ‘the Thunderbolt of the North’. In 1066, he comes to Northumbria, intent on claiming the English throne, in company with a huge Viking army, all the chieftains of which he has promised rich rewards, which they must claim for themselves as they maraud through the shires of this wealthy land.

Wulfgar Ragnarsson: One of the Hardraada’s deputy commanders, and a fearsome Viking warrior in his own right. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but he controls his own small army within the greater army of his master and has several key aims during the invasion of England. First and foremost is the recapture of those lands he considers ancestrally his, the centrepiece of which is Wulfbury, the fortified capital of Earl Rothgar of Ripon.

Sigfurth Blood-Hair: Wulfgar Ragnarsson’s most savage enforcer. Lethal in combat, and a cold-blooded killer and torturer of his master’s enemies, whatever their status. When Blood-Hair and his murderous accomplices are unleashed in Earl Rothgar’s verdant domain of Swaledale, the vast majority of whose male population has been drawn away to fight the Hardraada, he is literally a wolf in the fold.

Harold Godwinson: One of the most famous but shortest-ruling kings in England’s history. Earl of Wessex beforehand, and another fearless commander of men, King Harold, alas, will finally overface himself when tackling the Viking horde of Harald the Hardraada, and a couple of weeks later, marching south to take on the entire invasion force of Duke William of Normandy.

William the Bastard: The infamous Duke of Normandy who will later be nicknamed ‘William the Conqueror’, the founder of a new medieval dynasty in what was previously Dark Age England. A skilled and ruthless warrior, who has outfought numerically superior enemies all his life. When this rapacious overlord sets his sights on something, there is no stopping him. His latest goal, of course, is the capture of England, and he’ll kill and maim as many of its occupants as he needs to, to bring it under his yoke.

Yvette d’Hiemois:
A young Norman woman of fine breeding and intellect, but a valuable hostage to Duke William. Yvette is the only child and heiress to Count Rodric of Hiemois, a great Norman baron currently at odds with the Duke and therefore living in exile. Inevitably, she forms an alliance with fellow captive, Cerdic, which soon blossoms into romance. As the war unravels into unimaginable horror, Yvette withdraws into herself, dreaming of better things, and increasingly fearful that the vengeance-fuelled Cerdic will continue this fight until everyone and everything is annihilated.

Bishop Odo of Bayeux: Duke William’s brother and foremost deputy, and a grotesque, corrupt beast of a man, who cares nothing for his religious calling, seeking only to empower and enrich himself, and of course to debauch every female who falls into his grasp. So calculating is this odious creature that even Duke William is wary of him, though for the time being at least considers him a necessary device by which to dominate and terrorise his new subjects.

Count Cynric of Tancarville: Another of the great Norman lords who triumphs at the battle of Hastings, and a cold, aloof figure, who is no less greedy and ambitious than the majority of his jackal-like comrades, but who isn’t cruel for cruelty’s sake, who thinks deeply and plans ahead. An intriguer, who places little trust in Duke William and is prepared to make alliances with the most unexpected parties to achieve his aims.

Turold de Bardouville: Perhaps the greatest of the Norman knights, and Count Cynric’s personal champion. A ferocious opponent but another who takes no pleasure in killing without purpose and considers the terrorising of peasant folk, in particular women and children, beneath him. Half-English by birth, he is nevertheless entirely Norman in his outlook, but over time he comes to respect Cerdic’s courage and intelligence, and gradually forms an unlikely friendship with the lad, teaching him how to fight with a state-of-the-art new weapon, the Norman longsword.

Joubert fitzOslac: Count Cyrnic’s second son, and a man who has come to England not just to prove himself in battle, but to win the kind of wealth and position he could only dream about back home in Normandy. As such, he is brutal and sadistic. He thinks nothing of inflicting pain and terror if it will advance his position and is hated and feared even by many on his own side.

Father Jerome: Count Cynric’s personal chaplain, and one of a whole swarm of Norman clergymen who have accompanied the invasion of England, lusting for gold, power and position. Formerly a religious idealist, Jerome genuinely though he would come here to convert sinners, and then reap his just reward. Instead, the ongoing horror of war, slaughter and pillage preys on his mind, unhinging him to a horrible degree.

Roland Casterborus:
Count Cynric’s seneschal, and a skilled and honourable knight. He is steadfast to his Norman master, but his adherence to the new code of chivalry gnaws at his conscience, especially when he learns that the native English are not the degenerate apostates he was led to expect but practising fellow Christians. He also despises the rodent-like mercenaries who have accompanied the invasion and sees most of Duke William’s atrocities as cruel and unnecessary.

(Nearly all the images that I've used in today’s column were found floating around on the internet. With the exceptions of the one at the top, none were produced specifically to promote or illustrate the events or personalities in either of the novels, USURPER and BATTLE LORD. Nor were they tagged with the original creator’s names. If anyone has a problem with me using these images, please let me know and I will happily apply any credit where it is due, or, if required, take the image down).