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    “Mayhem,” a novel by Sarah Pinborough

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    Turn Down the Lights

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    The Ocean at The End of The Lane a novel by Neil Gaiman

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Between the Lines: Haunting titles start the new year

Published: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 - 12:00 am

The literary landscape for the new year looks loaded with top fiction and nonfiction titles. Oddly, among new big-buzz books are these works guaranteed to bring on the chills (even in warmer weather):

“Turn Down the Lights,” edited by Richard Chizmar (Cemetery Dance, $25, 200 pages): Cemetery Dance began in 1988 as a magazine specializing in “horror and dark suspense,” then expanded into book publishing in 1992. In celebration of its 25th anniversary comes this anthology of tales by horrormeister authors including Stephen King, Clive Barker and Peter Straub.

“Breed” by Chase Novak (Mulholland, $16, 336 pages): Ten-year-old twins Alex and Leslie don’t understand why they’re locked in their bedroom every night, and why their parents are so secretive all the time. And what are those strange noises they hear night after night? They’re determined to discover the truth and escape their prison, but they find much more than they could possibly have imagined. This one’s been called “a ‘Rosemary’s Baby’-like novel of gothic horror.” “Chase Novak” is the pseudonym of Scott Spencer, whose “Endless Love” for young adults has sold 2 million copies, and whose “A Ship Made of Paper” was a National Book Award finalist.

“The Troop” by Nick Cutter (Gallery, $26, 368 pages): It began innocently enough: A Scoutmaster and his troop of boys embark on a weekend camping trip into the wild. But hell opens up when a grotesque stranger wanders into their campsite, carrying a bioengineered disease. Who survives and who doesn’t?

“Mayhem” by Sarah Pinborough (Jo Fletcher, $24.95, 400 pages): As Jack the Ripper continues to elude Scotland Yard’s best detectives, a second serial killer enters the scene, nicknamed the Torso Killer. Police surgeon Thomas Bond is assigned to the case, which quickly segues from a murder investigation into something otherworldly. Pinborough holds many writing awards, including the British Fantasy Award for best short story.

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow, $25.99, 192 pages): Though it was published in June, this mythic literary masterpiece continues to gather momentum as word of mouth spreads. The adult narrator returns to the scene of his childhood plunge into the supernatural, recalling how our lives can change in a heartbeat and how friendships can end tragically, regardless of our best intentions. “Ocean” received a coveted starred review from Booklist and was an Amazon Best Book of the Month choice.

More for the bookshelf

Moving into less supernatural territory is this list of titles, which could become your own list:

As for fiction:

“The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central, $27, 416 pages): The mega-best-selling author is back with another emotional tale of passionate love, endangered love and reunited love, this time involving an older couple whose path crosses that of a much younger couple. “America’s best-loved author of romantic love stories” is a former pharmaceuticals salesman from Fair Oaks who now lives in New Bern, N.C. With more than 50 million books in print, it’s clear he has turned heartbreak into a franchise. “Writing is an art, publishing is a business,” Sparks is fond of saying.

“White Fire” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central, $27, 384 pages): The longtime writing partners are back with their 13th collaboration featuring eccentric FBI special agent Aloysius Pendergast, who reminds readers of Sherlock Holmes but is far more interesting. Pendergast uncovers the dark, hidden past of a ski-resort town just as a series of arsons threatens to destroy it. If you opt for the audiobook, the good news is that it’s read by actor Rene Auberjonois, the definitive voice of Pendergast.

“The Kept” by James Scott (Harper, $25, 368 pages): Tragedy leads to hardship and revenge in this compelling story, set in wintertime rural New York in the 1890s. A woman returns to her family cabin to discover the slayings of her husband and children, and strikes out to find the killers. Hear her roar.

As for nonfiction:

“For the Benefit of Those Who See” by Rosemary Mahoney (Little, Brown, $27, 304 pages): The author lived among blind people in order to tell their true stories and investigate the culture of blindness. Parts of her research included stays at Braille Without Borders, a school for blind children in Tibet, and the affiliated international training center for blind adults in India.

“I’ll Take You There” by Greg Kot (Scribner, $26, 320 pages): Gospel and R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples was the lead vocalist in her family’s band, the Staples Singers, a group regarded as the “spiritual and musical voice of the civil rights movement.” In this biography, Chicago Tribune music critic Kot takes readers on Mavis Staples’ journey from her years on the Southern gospel circuit in the 1950s to her ongoing superstardom. Along the way, she recalls encounters with Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Hank Williams and other musical greats.

“Careless People” by Sarah Churchwell (Penguin, $29,95, 432 pages): As a university professor of American literature, the author is well-positioned to explore the literary slice of the Jazz Age of the early 1920s and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s glamorous lifestyle in New York. Yet she goes further and uncovers a sensational but forgotten double murder case of the day, called at the time the “crime of the decade.”

Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.

Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni

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