Dark Hollow by Brian Keene
Adam Senft is a moderately successful mid-list genre author, living in what is essentially backwoods Pennsylvania. Almost literally, actually; the nearest forest is 30 square miles of protected woodlands, with a dark place at its centre: LeHorn’s Hollow, named for the man who used to live there but who, in the 1980s, murdered his wife and disappeared without a trace. One day, while avoiding writing walking his dog in the fringes of the forest, Adam sees his sexy neighbour Shelly apparently giving oral sex to a statue of a bearded man. But then the statue seems to come to life, and eventually Adam realizes it’s not a man at all, but a Satyr. Shelly is never seen again.
Adam has a hard time convincing himself that he actually saw a statue turn into a Satyr. But the woods around LeHorn’s Hollow have a long, bad reputation for weirdness, and as other women go missing and, in one case, a man ends up dead, and pipe music can be heard coming from the woods, Adam manages to convince some of his friends to at least help him investigate. They drive out to the Hollow, and, well, what they find there would be telling. It’s fair to say that LeHorn was a practitioner of Powwow, a kind of white American witchcraft, and that he summoned up something that he thought would help him, but which didn’t. And now it’s back.
The weakest part of the story, actually, is the section where Adam finds LeHorn’s diaries. They are written in the kind of old-timey dialect that Lovecraft used for bumpkins from the backwoods, but Lovecraft was writing in the 1930s and often about the 1910s or 1800s; LeHorn lived in his Hollow in the 1980s. It just doesn’t work.
Still, overall this is not bad. Keene is stretching his writing muscles in a different direction with each book, and this one is interesting. And the ending is genuinely chilling. Recommended.
White Night: a novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Dresden is called in to investigate an apparent suicide by a witch, but he’s quickly convinced that she didn’t kill herself. Nor is she the only one of Chicago’s magical practitioners to die or vanish mysteriously lately. Can Dresden etc., etc.
This is the tenth Dresden Files novel, and the backstory is long. And that backstory informs much of this book, which is why you get such a short summary. If you haven’t started reading the Dresden Files yet, you aren’t going to start with this one. You could; like a good mystery series Dresden makes each one a surprisingly easy entrance point. But you’d miss out on a lot of fun. And frankly, I’m surprised myself that he’s managed to keep things going this long without something going wrong. But he does and, unlike a lot of other paranormal adventure series, I’m still enjoying this one. Highly recommended.