Lyrical Underground | 2018
Opening Hook: Don’t Dead, Open Inside
Main Character: Basically M.I.A
Plot Twisty-ness: Lost in the forest
Eh, so this was a bit weird. Not terrible, but not great either. Because I’m so behind in reviews, I read this months ago and honestly, I’m still not really sure how I feel about it outside of one thing: editor needed.
This is the second novel in the Kathy Ryan series, but it can be read as a standalone because she’s barely in it. And when she is, there’s no information presented about Kathy that has too much bearing on the novel as part of a series. Really, without this being strictly marketed as in a series starring Kathy Ryan, I would never have known.
Seriously, why is she not in this book at all until like the 50% point? The chapter plotting is just so fucking weird. I’m sorry. Whoever saw this book plotted out and thought, “yes, good job,” was on drugs. And not the good kind.
In the smalltown of Zarephath, PA, there is a mysterious freestanding door in the forest. All the townsfolk know what this door does, but not why. And I have to say, I really didn’t mind the obscurity of the door, the creatures behind it or why it existed. There was something very Lovecraftian about the vibe and sometimes with creature-horror, it’s more interesting to not have all the answers.
So, this door grants wishes. Write down a wish and slip it under the door – your wish will be granted. But you have to be careful about the wording of your wish because things can go very, very wrong. Your wish is not guaranteed to be answered the way you expect it will be and if it isn’t, you’re shit out of luck because you can’t get that wish back. And you never, ever open the door.
“You don’t always get it how you want it. And there’s no way to take it back, sugar, because rule number one is that you absolutely, under no circumstances ever, open that Door. Once you deliver your letter, it is out of your hands.”
See? I told you.
But hey, someone opens the door because people are the dumbest things on earth. I mean, you just know someone would open this door if it were real. Maybe a Qanon believer thinking it was a government conspiracy where they hide all the Satan-worshipping liberals running the Cabal, or whatever the fuck it is they believe.
Kari’s young daughter has recently died. The pain from her grief has become so unbearable, Kari writes a wish and slips it under the door hoping whatever is on the other side can help take her pain away. But her wording was off and things go awry. Instead of her pain dissipating, Kary finds all her memories of her daughter are being wiped from her memory. Desperate to stop this, she goes to the door and forces it open to get her wish back even though she was specifically told by the wisest woman in town to not fucking do this.
Kari unleashes a torrent of deadly, otherworldly creatures onto the town. Queue Kathy Ryan – specialist in the occult and supernatural who’s job is to help law enforcement handle the things they have no training to handle.
The concept was kind of fun and I was hyped to read a series centring on a woman who’s a little like Dean and Sam Winchester, but the execution was so off that it distracted my entire reading experience.
The first 50% of the novel is really heavy in scenes featuring the residents of Zarephath, exploring their wishes and how they connect. In some cases, there were really great connections being made that should have been explosive plot twists, but the writing was so clunky, wordy and unedited, that it seriously killed the plotting and pacing, even going so far as to delay the introduction of the series lead, Kathy Ryan, by like 100 pages which felt really weird to me.
I would have loved to see the novel open with Kathy, explain in a mysterious way who she was and what she does and then flip to the town where the chapters about the residents were more streamlined towards the overall point of the plot. There was a lot of telling instead of showing in this novel, which is one of my biggest writing pet peeves. A chapter about a character would be 90% thoughts in their head, half of it totally unnecessary to moving the plot forward.
It felt like I was reading the first draft of a novel that still needed to be edited and reworked, instead of something ready to be published. That’s kind of a bummer because there was something really great about the concept for this, it just took a misstep when it came to actually putting the idea into the framework of a novel that flowed.
If the writing had been cleaner and the plotting more dynamic, specifically in the case of the main character Kathy, I would have liked this a lot more than I did. But I’m still interested to read more about Kathy Ryan because “female supernatural doctor” is a fucking cool job.
Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.
Occult specialist Kathy Ryan returns in this thrilling novel of paranormal horror from Mary SanGiovanni, the author of Chills.
Some doors should never be opened . . .
In the rural town of Zarepath, deep in the woods on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, stands the Door. No one knows where it came from, and no one knows where it leads. For generations, folks have come to the Door seeking solace or forgiveness. They deliver a handwritten letter asking for some emotional burden to be lifted, sealed with a mixture of wax and their own blood, and slide it beneath the Door. Three days later, their wish is answeredfor better or worse.
Kari is a single mother, grieving over the suicide of her teenage daughter. She made a terrible mistake, asking the powers beyond the Door to erase the memories of her lost child. And when she opened the Door to retrieve her letter, she unleashed every sin, secret, and spirit ever trapped on the other side.
Now, it falls to occultist Kathy Ryan to seal the door before Zarepath becomes hell on earth . . .