Winnipeg Free Press Column, October 2017

The Grip of It (FSG Originals, 288 pages, $21) by Jac Jemc is everything you wished Jay Ansen’s The Amityville Horror had been: smart, elegantly written, and terrifying. Julie and James uproot themselves from the city and move to a small town, where they buy a house that soon begins to exhibit the sort of behaviour you don’t normally expect from an inanimate object.

But that’s the question, isn’t it? As objects move from place to place, as familiar rooms change and new spaces reveal themselves, as the house itself seems to be shifting structurally, we’re forced to consider the possibility that it is… alive. And, apparently, not thrilled about its new inhabitants. Jemc has created a couple of genuinely interesting characters, and the slow, creeping terror keeps us glued to the page.

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In Alex Lake’s Copycat (HarperCollins, 416 pages, $13), Sarah Havenant is surprised to discover that she has two Facebook pages: the one she set up, and another that was apparently created by someone posing as her. And here’s the really creepy thing: the other page is full of recent pictures of Sarah, taken without her knowledge — photos taken at private events and even inside her house. Who set up the other page, and why?

As Sarah tries to figure out what’s going on, she realizes that the second Facebook page is just the beginning: her online imitator has bigger plans for Sarah than merely creeping her out — serious plans, deadly plans. Lake plants little clues, tiny hints of the truth, in strategic places, but you’ll have to be paying close attention to catch them all. She wants you to be as shocked as Sarah when the truth is fully revealed. She succeeds.

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Reckless Creed (Putnam, 375 pages, $14) is the third in Alex Kava’s series about Ryder Creed, the former Marine who now trains search-and-rescue dogs. Called in to find a missing woman in Alabama, Ryder discovers that she appears to have committed suicide by weighing herself down until she drowned in a river. Meanwhile, FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell (Kava’s more well-known series lead) is baffled by a series of seemingly inexplicable events.

Soon Ryder and Maggie are working together to break a conspiracy of almost mind-boggling complexity. As usual, Kava builds the suspense gracefully, in small increments, rather than slam-banging us with abrupt shifts in tone. By the time we realize we’re looking over our shoulder, feeling that knot of dread in our stomach, it’s much too late to stop reading. Ryder Creed was originally spun off the O’Dell series, and it’s nice to see them working together again.

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Three years ago, a five-year-old girl went missing. Now, unwilling to accept that she may be gone forever, her parents have hired Naomi, an investigator who specializes in finding missing children. Rene Denfeld’s The Child Finder (Harper, 273 pages, $22) is a beautifully written story told in shifting points of view.

As we follow Naomi in her investigation, we begin to sense that there’s more at stake here than a little girl’s life; somehow, and for a long time it’s more of a tingling sensation at the back of our minds, we know that Naomi’s own life hangs in the balance. Full of mystery and haunting imagery, it’s a novel that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.

This column originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press.

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