Black Mad Wheel

. Ecco: HarperCollins. May 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780062259684. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9780062677136. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062259707. HORROR
OrangeReviewStarMembers of the fading 1950s rock band The Danes are approached by an agent of army intelligence to help trace an uncanny, apparently malign (causing vomiting and extreme emotional upset), sound recorded in North Africa. Later, lead singer Philip Tonka wakes from a coma in an anonymous clinic, with nearly every bone in his body broken, cared for by Ellen—a nurse who is more forthcoming than the secretive doctors and military types. As Philip's healing mysteriously speeds up, he struggles to untangle his confusing memories of what happened in the desert. The prevailing icy paranoia beneath the fractured time line builds tension and creates a very real feel of fear and falling into suffocating existential traps (here a genuine danger). Malerman (Bird Box) explores—and tests—the limits of psychological horror. In a genre not known for restraint, his uncluttered prose evokes awe and terror rather than horror and revulsion, and resonates with the chilling strangeness encountered in the fiction of 20th-century writers Robert Aickman and Shirley Jackson.
VERDICT Readers of weird, atmospheric fiction with a conspiratorial bent will enjoy Malerman's latest offering. [See Prepub Alert, 11/27/16.]
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