SMALL HORRORS by DARCY COATES
Just a reminder…while this is the Movie Madhouse, I will do an occasional book review, if the book has cinematic potential, or is a book that is movie related. There is no author I am reading right now whose books are more fit for film adaptation than those of Darcy Coates! – MZNJ
Book is a collection of fifty short stories from author Darcy Coates. The author covers a myriad of spooky subjects from ghosts to ghouls to crypto critters! It’s a creepy, scary-fun collection that illustrates just how imaginative the author is with such a wide variety of terror tales. It is also a surprisingly consistent collection of stories. Sure, a few don’t quite work as well as the others but in contrast there are many very strong ones that legitimately scare and chill to the bone in just a few pages. As with her full-length tales, Coates has a very keen visual sense in her descriptions, yet also knows when to let our imaginations conjure far worse than her words. Overall, it’s a fun book to read under the covers on a stormy night, and as they are short stories, only a few pages in length, there is always a good stopping point if you don’t have time to read too much. Another supernaturally entertaining book from a deviously imaginative author.
GALLOWS HILL by DARCY COATES
Margot Hull has inherited not only the family property, but the profitable winery business as well with the mysterious death of her estranged parents. The land comes with a curse, though and the longer Margot stays, the more she realizes she cannot leave, as the dead rise from the ground at night and there are dark mysteries and unmarked graves everywhere she turns. Can Margot unravel the sordid history of Gallows Hill and finally free the land…and herself…of the curse that claimed her parents’ lives?
Coates takes her haunted house story to the next level with this tale of dark pasts, murder, undead revenge and the supernatural. She presents us with a reluctant but likable lead character with Margot, who realizes she is trapped on a cursed and very haunted land whose dead stalk the fields and forests at night in search of revenge. Margot does get a few clues from allies both living and not and the reader learns the terrible truths as she does. It’s scary, entertaining and like all her books, has a very healthy dose of mystery as Margot must unravel the dark secrets the property holds and try to free herself and her employees from a curse that has plagued Gallows Hill for generations. For a book almost 400 pages, it’s a fast and engaging read and shows Coates’ growth as a writer as her latest tales are becoming delightfully more intricate and even spookier and more atmospheric. Yet another chilling and involving story from a writer who continues to get better with each spooky book! Coates has yet to disappoint!
FROM BELOW by DARCY COATES
Newest book from author Darcy Coates is a spooky change from her usual haunted house tales and presents a story of underwater horror…though not without the haunted element that she does so well. Adventure seeker and reality TV star Cove sets out with her crew to investigate the sunken wreckage of the SS Arcadia which disappeared long ago. The ship was finally found at the bottom of the ocean, and Cove has been hired to be the first to enter the wreckage and solve the mystery of the luxury liner’s disappearance, along with the fate of its passengers and crew. What awaits the divers is far more than your typical seafaring mystery but a nautical nightmare they may not return from.
Coates takes her haunted house story and delightfully transplants it into the wreckage of a lost ocean liner fathoms beneath the surface. The added caveats of limited oxygen and visibility adds an element of isolation and tension that is not usually present in a traditional haunted house tale, where one can simply leave the spook infested building. She also skillfully tells two stories at once in this chilling and involving tale, as we switch back and forth, chapter to chapter, from the Arcadia’s fateful last days to Cove and crew slowly finding out the frightening truth as to what happened and realizing the ship may not be as dead in the water as they believe. It’s scary, entertaining and like all her books, has a cast of very likable characters especially the strong-willed Cove. For a book over 400 pages, it’s a fast read and is perfect for a lazy summer’s day at the beach, or a nighttime read snuggled under the covers. Another solidly spooky story from a woman who is becoming a modern master of the haunted house…or ship…tale.
THE RAVENOUS DEAD by DARCY COATES
Second chapter in Darcy Coates’ Gravekeeper series finds Keira trying to help a faceless. nameless spirit find it’s rest while also battling the specter of a local serial killer that has evolved into a vicious entity that devours other spirts. At the same time, a brush with a secret organizing puts her closer to finding her true identity while also placing her in danger. Even with the help of new friends Mason, Zoe and kindly priest Adage, can Keira succeed in saving her graveyard home and herself?
Coates, now armed with a group of endearing characters from the first installment, The Whispering Dead, concocts another entertaining tale that is again part ghost story and part mystery. Keira finds herself in double danger as the spirit of serial killer Gerald Barge drains the energy of both the living and the dead, while mysterious men in black recognize and almost capture her at a local hospital. Keira is literally caught between threats from both the living and the dead! There are a lot of spooky moments, scary confrontations, chases, escapes and mysteries to be solved to thoroughly entertain the reader. As we now know and like these characters, it makes it even more engaging. With a third book on the way, this is a spooky series from Darcy Coates that one can’t wait for more of!
THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by DARCY COATES
Jo lives next door to The Marwick House, an ominous home that has a dark history and has seen more than one owner flee the residence in the middle of the night, never to return. When pretty Anna moves in, she and Jo become friends bringing Jo into the house for the first time. Jo and Anna soon find out that there is indeed a presence in this house, and it is very angry and may want something even more frightening than just its mere presence.
This is one of Darcy Coates more intense chillers and perhaps one of her darker stories. Aside from the angry spirit inhabiting the house, Anna’s abusive boyfriend also plays a part. There is an air of mystery as now Jo feels she must help Anna and is drawn into finding out who haunts the house and why. It has some very spooky moments and Coates weaves some very atmospheric imagery as the secrets of Marwick House are slowly revealed. There is more intensity here than in some of her previous haunted house tales and is delightfully a bit scarier that one usually expects from her. Another spooky and chilling read from Darcy Coates and one refreshingly darker than her norm.
SEASON’S CREEPINGS: TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR by RONALD KELLY
A fun and spooky collection of ten Christmas themed horror tales by author Ronald Kelly. Stories like the opening Jingle Bones and fairy tale-like Then Came a Woodsman are, for the most part, consistent in chills and fun. The two stories that stand out as the best, however, come towards the end of the book, with the chilling Christmas tree horror Beneath the Branches and the holiday fireside folktale The Peddler’s Journey. For those that like a little creepy in their Christmas, this is a fun and spooky anthology of holiday horror stories from Nashville native Ronald Kelly!
DEAD LAKE by DARCY COATES
Another spooky tale from Darcy Coates, this one set at a remote cabin on the shore of a lake, where there have been some disappearances as of late. Artist Sam intends to spend a week at her uncle’s self-built cabin to try and finish an art project for an upcoming exhibit. She soon starts seeing a mysterious figure and it becomes apparent that she is not alone in these woods, and someone may be stalking her.
Coates gives us something different from her traditional haunted house and paranormal tales, though this story does have some supernatural elements. It’s a very creepy and unsettling tale as we quickly endear to struggling artist Sam and given a good idea of just how isolated and alone she is there. Not only does she start seeing this figure, but there is evidence someone is entering the cabin and she is painting frightening portraits at night of a very grim looking stranger…paintings she has no recollection of doing. Of course, there is a mystery element and there is a spirit involved and it all comes to a very intense and unnerving climax, where we get some startling answers. The book also comes with four spooky and entertaining short stories, the nerve-wracking Whose Woods These Are, the chilling Mannequin, the bizarre Hitchhiker and the haunting Bellamy. Another very spooky book for nights under the covers from an author who has yet to disappoint!
THE HAUNTING OF LEIGH HARKER by DARCY COATES
Latest chiller from Darcy Coates tells the story of Leigh Harker, a single woman who lives alone in an old house…until now. She starts being visited in her bedroom in the middle of the night by a mysterious and frightening figure. The door under the stairs begins to rattle, as if someone—or something—is trying to get out from inside. Leigh starts to believe a malevolent entity has come to her once cozy home and now needs to find out why it’s here and what it wants!
Coates delivers another haunted house tale with a heavy dose of mystery and, at the same time, one of her most intriguing books yet. She gives us the tropes we’ve come to expect from her, a strong heroine, a haunted house and a mystery to be solved. She also throws us a curve, as this time, it’s a haunting told from the ghost’s point of view. It’s the specter who feels the living occupant of the home is the one haunting it, until the two join forces to solved the mystery behind the spirit’s demise and reason for it’s current presence in the house. It’s a spooky and fun tale, with some chilling surprises and a very unexpected twist early on. We have two very likable characters in Leigh and Sarah and it keeps you guessing till all is unsettlingly revealed in it’s final chapters. Overall, it’s simply one of Darcy Coates’ best books yet. This author has yet to disappoint! Her books definitely cry out to be adapted to film!
THE WHISPERING DEAD by DARCY COATES
Latest book from Darcy Coates begins with a young woman named Keira fleeing from a group of men who are hunting her. She has no memory of who she is and why she is being pursued. She finds herself at a small church and graveyard, outside the remote town of Blighty, where a kindly pastor lets her stay at the groundskeeper’s cabin. There she discovers that she can see and communicate with the spirits still inhabiting the cemetery and gets embroiled in a mystery, while helping the troubled ghost of a murdered young woman move on from her mournful wandering.
Once again Coates spins an entertaining yarn that is equal parts ghost story and mystery. A story brimming with fog shrouded graveyards, shadow filled woods and locals with dark secrets. It’s the start of a new series, so don’t expect to get answers to all your questions, but Keira is a very engaging character and the town of Blighty a strange and gothic place, filled with some eccentric—and maybe some dangerous—characters. It’s a very quick read and a very entertaining tale, populated with some likable supporting characters, such as Pastor Adage, conspiracy theorist and general store clerk Zoe and charming med student Mason. The type of spooky fun book, perfect for reading under the covers at night, that we’ve come to expect from Coates, and starring a heroine we want to hear more from.
THE CARROW HAUNT by DARCY COATES
Another fun and spooky read from Darcy Coates, though a bit of an uneven one. This book finds Remy, a tour guide in the notoriously haunted Carrow House being hired to host a two week paranormal investigation of the mansion, which has a background of serial killers and murder. She has an eccentric group to watch over, including Carrow’s teen owner, April, the mysterious founder of the investigation, Mark and psychic medium, Marjorie. When things start going wrong and guests start turning up dead, Remy begins to believe this was a bad idea and that the evil in Carrow House is greater than any of them imagined—and maybe even far more corporeal than expected.
Book is another entertaining story, though based on Coates’ books read so far, it is also the most over the top tale from the author. It starts out grounded in the traditional haunted house tropes and a somewhat more down to earth approach, combining haunted house story and soon murder mystery. By it’s last act it gets very theatrical, though, with evil spirits plotting to become corporeal, a storm that seems almost to have a mind of it’s own and a ghost battle royale in a burning house. Depending on one’s tastes, the more bombastic ending may cause the story to lose it’s grip, or you may embrace the more Spielbergian theatrics. There are some plot contrivances in the last act, too, that allow characters thought gone to reappear and it gets a bit much. At least Coates’ penchant for good, fun characters holds up with her largest cast of characters in the books read so far. Her most uneven book to this point overall, but still an entertaining read and Remy is yet another memorable lead heroine.