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Jesse Hale
Service Provider
Something Sinister Within
R.G.Johansen, editor (anthology)
R.G. Johansen takes readers on a spellbinding journey of family drama and first love, combined with a one-hundred-year-old riddle of unsolved murders in the Appalachian foothills in North Carolina. In the year 1967, a highschooler named Jamie Thompson learns what it takes to stand up against evil while desperately trying to fit in with her peers, protect her little brother, and compensate for her addicted mother. Guided by the most unlikely mentor, she discovers her special gift and, in the end, unravels the frightening truth which is far more sinister than anyone could have imagined.
Johansen (A Message from Boo) goes for the jugular in this not-for-the-faint-of-heart mystery brimming with suspense, shocks, and supernatural evil as it follows a teenage girl in the 1960s on her hunt for the killer ravaging her small town. Jamie, a 16-year-old tired of living with her alcoholic mother in the slums of Paradise Point, wants nothing more than an escape for herself and her younger brother, Tommy—but as she strives to create a better life, Jamie is drawn into a series of brutal murders close to home that no one can seem to solve. When the town starts to suspect an evil presence is behind the deaths, Jamie joins ranks with her boyfriend, Lenny, to unravel the puzzle.

Readers should come prepared for plenty of bloodshed: the murders are gruesome, and Johansen skillfully elicits the fear and torment that plague locals when they’re unable to solve the crimes. Jamie, an unlikely hero in many aspects, suffers her share of trauma as she chases down the killers, but her pluck and resolve will resonate with fans of strong female protagonists. The supernatural elements lurking behind the town’s troubles emerge gradually, but once Johansen introduces them through the locals’ superstitious beliefs, the story quickly comes to a head, alongside a dramatic ending that’s equal parts hair-raising and proudly, can-you-top-this? excessive.

Though the length may intimidate some readers, Johansen’s steady stream of action keeps the pace balanced—even when the narrative delves into the somewhat stereotypical backstories of the main characters. Happy endings aren’t the norm in this thriller, but Johansen manages to keep the outcomes believable despite the onslaught of paranormal savagery sprayed across the pages, and readers cheering for Jamie will be satisfied that her efforts to put the pieces together are eventually rewarded. Fans of paranormal mysteries with elaborate carnage will be pleased.

Takeaway: A small town falls under the spell of paranormal violence in this relentless thriller..

Great for fans of: Alex North’s The Whisper Man, Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s I Remember You.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A