NO ONE’S HOME: I hope you have a night light

Margot and Myron Spielman move to a new town looking for a fresh start. After a predictable yet effective sales technique by their realtor (at this price it won’t last long!), they purchase Rawlingswood, a foreclosed mansion rumored to be haunted. This is the part where you realize anyone could be roped into buying a haunted house. Sure, some people may or may not have been murdered here, but all old houses have a history. And look at this crown molding!

The thing is that the Spielmans, like so many people who are living outside their means, are trying to create a perfect life from the outside in hopes that the inner workings will follow. But it never works that way, y’all.

After an expensive and rushed renovation fraught with problems, the Spielmans move into the beautiful old house. Their issues quickly escalate as the mansion’s façade begins to crumble around them. Their teenage son Hunter uncovers Rawlingswood’s disturbing history as the Spielman’s own secrets and betrayals come to light. And someone, or something, is watching everything that happens inside the house. Hunter searches for answers as his parents become more absorbed in their own darkness. The pressure of their past and present builds to a fever pitch, and there’s a decent chance someone will be murdered. I mean, they are in the Murder House, after all. Murder’s in the name.

D.M. Pulley’s NO ONE’S HOME is a creepy, twisty tale with a setting so rich it feels like a character. Pulley leans heavily into family history and small-town folklore, weaving a lush web of stories into one page-turning novel. It’s currently a semifinalist (horror category) in the 11th annual Goodreads Choice Awards. Vote and buy it now, then read it as soon as you get your hands on it. If you read at night like I do, get ready for some messed up dreams.

THE TERATOLOGIST: wealth and terror in Palm Beach

Two people in 1902 Gilded Age Palm Beach who have very different physical deformities also exhibit paranormal gifts. Dr. Frank Follett studies birth defects and becomes fascinated with them both. One is a young child who was born without limbs but with the ability to channel the dead, including the spirit of Follett’s late beloved wife. The other is a wealthy young man who was born with the appearance of a hairy monster and is a telepath.

Dr. Follett’s work with the young girl is upended when she is kidnapped by a serial killer who has been striking each tourist season. And soon after, the young man becomes possessed by a malevolent entity and goes on a murderous rampage.

Dr. Follett arrived in Palm Beach with a plan to recuperate from his traumatic service in the Philippine-American War. But instead he finds himself searching for a serial killer and trying to stop what might be an actual monster from continuing a killing spree. And THE Mark Twain is in Palm Beach, eager to offer the doctor assistance.

Look, it’s kind of a bananas set-up. But it works.

The protagonist Dr. Follett is a man of science who finds himself entangled with the supernatural. And also with the wealthy upper class who have different rules and expectations than he’s used to. He’s a nuanced character, driven both by a need to help others and by his own selfish urges.

All the characters are well-developed and humanized, even those that aren’t completely human. I found Darryl, the young man who looks like a hairy monster, the most endearing. He can read minds, so he has no delusions about how people see him. He’s spoiled and intelligent but also longs to find his place in the world.

My favorite thing about THE TERATOLOGIST is how immersed I felt in the historical setting. I had no trouble envisioning the luxurious and wild early 1900’s Palm Beach. It’s obvious that Parker did his research, both with teratology and the Florida of the past. His rich descriptions weave a tangible backdrop to this clever novel that is equal parts mystery and horror, with some humor and despair thrown in the mix.

Go into this book with an open mind. You won’t be disappointed.