Secrets/Outcast

JournalStone’s DoubleDown series was inspired by the old Ace double novels, which paired veteran authors with up-and-comers. Past DoubleDown series have paired Gord Rollo and Rena Mason, Lisa Morton and Eric J. Guignard, Joe McKinney and Sanford Allen, and Harry Shannon and Brett J. Talley.

In the fifth installment, John R. Little and Mark Allan Gunnells team up to tell the story of Karen Richardson. The stand-alone novellas share a prologue, but that’s about it.

In Little’s Secrets, Karen is able to stop time, though she can’t control when it happens or for how long. While time is frozen, she enters her neighbors’ homes and discovers their dirty secrets (and they’re all dirty). During one of her excursions, she meets another person able to slip through time, Bobby Jersey. At first she’s intrigued by the boy, but in time it’s clear he’s psychotic.

The premise is intriguing and Little does a great job ratcheting up the suspense as the Bobby Jersey character gets creepier and creepier. The ending feels a bit anti-climatic and predictable, but it’s still a fun ride.

In Outcast by Mark Allan Gunnells, Karen is a college freshman with no social life, no boyfriend, and the power of telekinesis. (Think a well-adjusted Carrie.) She befriends an older witch who helps Karen harness her powers, but the woman is keeping a bunch of deadly secrets. Bobby Jersey is here, too, but unlike in Secrets he’s a sweetheart. Still, he’s just as strange as his counterpart; maybe even stranger.

Whereas Secrets feels more like a dark thriller, Outcast plays out more like a paranormal romance. That’s not a knock on the story. It’s definitely a page-turner.

Secrets/Outcast is due out August 22nd.

About James Aquilone

James Aquilone lives in Staten Island, New York. His fiction is forthcoming or has appeared in Galaxy's Edge, Flash Fiction Online, Weird Tales Magazine, and DarkFuse's Horror d’oeuvres, among other publications. His non-fiction has appeared in SF Signal, Hellnotes, and Den of Geek. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association. Visit him online at jamesaquilone.com
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