Book Review—Little White Lies

It’s not often I say this, but Little White Lies by Elizabeth McGregor blew me away. What starts out as a sad, curious mystery festers like sepsis, driving you to high fever and delirium until what you are left with is shock and a sickening truth that speaks to the worst human frailties. All through the book, the author is both careful and relentless. Her writing is unfailingly English, and she doesn’t brook impatience. You must wait for the revelation. And, dear Lord, when it comes you almost wish it hadn’t.

By nature, I am an impatient person. And, for better or worse, my writing reflects that. But in this brilliant novel, McGregor has taught me that sometimes it’s better to breathe and let the pain wash over you like a rinsing agent mixed with blood. Beth March never had a clue that a dead bird would lead to such misery—not just hers—and when she accepts the reality that has always surrounded her, it’s as if she is acknowledging not just one but many deaths.

Don’t go looking for heroes in Little White Lies—they don’t exist. Some, however, do act heroically at times, including Beth. There is no doubt I will read this book again. But I’ll have to wait until the fever subsides. In the meantime, I’m going in search of the 1998 TV movie version, which was produced by the BBC and co-written by the novel’s author.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description

[Little White Lies Cover]

Any other year, summer arrived with the swallows. But this year, the broken body of a bird, left on the porch, serves as an omen of deception, a shadow cast over the days to come…

Beth March’s life seems unexceptional: she and her husband, David, have a conventional, quiet marriage.

The opening morning of the nightmare seems like just another day, aside from the unexpected body of the bird…but while Beth showers and prepares for the day, David drives his car at full speed into the path of a lorry. He is killed instantly.

From the moment that Beth learns of his fate, her world begins to shatter around her. Nothing in her life can ever be the same again.

No one can be trusted. No one is telling her the truth.

Was David having an affair?

Why did he go behind her back to sell his shares and take out another mortgage — and where is that money now?

What dark secrets lie beneath the picture-perfect image of the family down the lane?

As she unravels the chain of tragic events that preceded her husband’s death, Beth finds herself tossed from side to side on a sea of continually shifting information, never sure what is true and what is not.

What seem like little white lies gradually begin to build and build until Beth truly begins to realise the horror of devastating betrayal experienced by everyone involved…

Little White Lies is an intriguing tale of suspicion, deceit and the quest for the truth.

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Book Review—A Small Revolution

For me, reading this novel was like experiencing a dream. I alternated between curiosity, frustration, and elation. Curiosity, because I am unfamiliar with Korean culture; frustration, because as the reader, I could do nothing but witness Lloyd’s descent into madness without ever actually understanding his mind; elation, because despite her troubled childhood, Yoona has a chance to be happy.

This is what good writing does—it stretches you until you can hear your muscles tearing. I’ll be honest. At first, I was a little put off by the short passages that seemed more like journal entries than chapters. But as I followed Yoona in her attempt to come to terms with her current predicament—being held hostage by a former friend—I discovered a history I had little knowledge of. And I also learned of the pain immigrants can feel when trying to assimilate in this purported land of opportunity.

A Small Revolution is powerful. And, like a dream, every reader is bound to experience it differently.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[A Small Revolution Cover]

In this powerful, page-turning debut, Jimin Han deftly shows that revolutions—whether big or small, in the world or of the heart—can have an impact that lasts through time and spans the oceans.

On a beautiful Pennsylvania fall morning, a gunman holds college freshman Yoona Lee and three of her classmates hostage in the claustrophobic confines of their dorm room. The desperate man with his finger on the trigger—Yoona’s onetime friend, Lloyd Kang—is unraveling after a mysterious accident in Korea killed his closest friend, Jaesung, who was also the love of Yoona’s life.

As the tense standoff unfolds, Yoona is forced to revisit her past, from growing up in an abusive household to the upheaval in her ancestral homeland to unwittingly falling in love. She must also confront the truth about what happened to Jaesung on that tragic day, even as her own fate hangs in the balance.

Through scenes of political upheaval and protests in South Korea, spirited conversations in cramped dumpling houses, and the quiet moments that happen when two people fall in love, A Small Revolution is a moving narrative brimming with longing, love, fear, and—ultimately—hope.

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Book Review—Sorrow’s Turn

I read the first two books in this series, and this one is my favorite. Mainly, I love the way the author has developed the relationship between Jimmy Holiday and his old-now-new girlfriend, Tabby who, as it happens is also his exorcism buddy. Yeah, you read that right. A former Catholic priest has teamed up with a witch to save the world from bad things. Quite a unique concept, if you ask me.

The central conflict in the series is within Jimmy himself. He has learned to his never-ending bewilderment that he is a “marker,” which means he possesses the power to save souls from eternal damnation by marking them. And if that isn’t bad enough, he’s learned there exists an Order of Markers. And these boys don’t really have much of a sense of humor. Though he continues to do the right thing by confronting demons as they possess people, he’s not too happy about it and, sometimes, wishes he could simply hide and eat chocolate. What, no rotgut whiskey?

Sorrow’s Turn is a very entertaining read. If you like paranormal stories with some pretty crazy twists, I suggest you start with the first book. I wouldn’t call Jimmy’s life a roller coaster exactly. It’s more like the funhouse in an abandoned amusement park. You really don’t want to continue forward, but you’re too scared to go back the way you came.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[Sorrow’s Turn Cover]

Some Things are Worse Than Demons.

Jimmy Holiday, reluctant exorcist, is finally getting the help he needs from the higher-ups. The Order of Markers is sending him to the Vatican’s exorcism school. Now, he’ll receive the training he should have gotten at the beginning. One problem, someone wants to sabotage him.

When his time at the school is cut short, Jimmy receives an interesting new case. It is the assignment that no one wants—a corpse has come back to life. And it isn’t a zombie.

Too bad nothing goes as expected. Armed with his usual bag of tricks, Jimmy thinks everything will eventually be all right. Well, that is until his betrayer turns out to be the person he trusts most.

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Book Review—Before You Leap

[Before You Leap Cover]In many ways, Before You Leap is a book I admire. I’ll mention two. The author has a way of describing things that, frankly, is bound to make me work harder as a writer. And indeed, he has taken to heart the notion that it’s better to start in the middle of things, leaving the reader in a dizzying confusion of places and events that—ever so slowly—become more apparent as you wend your way through a pulse-pounding maze of violent emotion. It’s a technique I’ve used myself, and it’s very effective in the mystery thriller genre. The other thing is, the characters ring true to me—especially Greg. Although after finishing this book, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that he is more than a little disturbed.

Regarding the plot, I felt the story was a little convoluted and could have benefited from some simplification. Don’t get me wrong—I have no problem dealing with characters whose motives are mysterious and who consistently act in ways that deceive. But there were a few times when I found myself wishing for more of a straight line as Greg is forced to confront his painful past.

Overall, I liked Before You Leap and recommend it to fans of the genre. It’s a solid piece of work and definitely worth exploring.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Synopsis
Peace of mind is all Greg Cole has wanted since the murder of his twin sister, Scarlett. 

In his new sun-soaked Florida life, he thought he had found it. But when Scarlett’s killer is released early from prison with a cast-iron alibi, Greg realizes that his past is about to explode into his present, with terrifying consequences.

To expose the truth he must open up old wounds. As a talk therapist, Greg knows all about dark secrets, but when a childhood friendship comes to the fore and the police turn their spotlight on him, the thought of analyzing his own psyche is a disturbing prospect. How far can he trust his own memories?

With his life coming apart at the seams, and his grip on reality beginning to unravel, Greg must face the ghosts of his past if he hopes to prove his innocence and live to see another day.

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Book Review—The Haunted

[The Haunted Cover]Sometimes, my wife asks how I can read scary books just before going to sleep. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember and it’s never bothered me. Like most people, I read for pleasure. But as a writer, I also read for understanding. Usually, when I read books about the supernatural, I intellectualize everything down to the story, writing style, and authenticity of the characters. I may have to revisit that approach.

The Haunted is the true story of the Smurl family, devout Catholics living in Pennsylvania who find themselves being infested with a demon and other vengeful spirits. Based on everything I’ve read so far about demons, this situation can occur when someone invites the demonic into their home through the use of Ouija boards, spells, or cursed objects like the Annabelle doll. Not so with the Smurls. This family did none of those things, yet the demonic entered their lives and plagued them for years, terrorizing individual family members—and even the neighbors.

Despite everything that happens, the Smurl family remains rooted in their faith. It’s the main reason they were able to manage for so long, undergoing multiple exorcisms and hordes of tourists wanting a glimpse of “the dark side.” As for me, I am comfortable in my faith and have always believed the demonic will leave me alone so long as I don’t seek it out. After reading The Haunted, I’m not so sure anymore.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Synopsis
The world’s most famous demonologists, Ed & Lorraine Warren, were called in to help an average American family who were assaulted by forces too awesome, too powerful, too dark, to be stopped. It’s a true story, supported by dozens of eyewitnesses neighbors, priests, police, journalists, and researchers. The grim slaughterhouse of odors. The deafening pounding. The hoofed half-man charging down the hall. The physical attacks, a vicious strangling, failed exorcisms, the succubus… and the final terror which continued to torment the Smurls. In this shocking, terrifying, deeply absorbing book rivaled only by The Amityville Horror—a case also investigated by the Warrens—journalist Robert Curran digs deep into the haunting of the Smurl home in West Pittston, Pennsylvania, and the unshakeable family bonds that helped them survive.

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Book Review—CLOCKWISE

[Clockwise Cover]I love stories involving time travel. If I were writing one, it would probably take on a more dystopian tone—not unlike the television show ‘12 Monkeys’ on Syfy. But that’s me. Clockwise is different, though. Thanks to the talented author, Elle Strauss, it’s funny, girly, and inventive. Also, it feels historically accurate, which is always a good thing for the discerning reader.

Teens have enough going on in their lives without adding sudden, awkward trips to the past. And when you add a little danger and a series of escalating romantic complications, you end up with a fun, satisfying read. The protagonist, Casey Donovan, is very self-aware. She goes on endlessly about her height, her hair, and her perceived lack of personality. And like most teens, she’s not really sure where she fits in, though her best friend Lucinda is mostly supportive. The fact that Casey is smitten with a jock doesn’t help matters.

In less skilled hands, this story would have seemed trite. One thing I noticed is that Nate, the object of Casey’s endless fascination, is written with real heart. I mean, come on. Good-looking high school athletes have a reputation that precedes them in movies and television. Allowing him to mature along with Casey was absolutely the right move. Clockwise is socially relevant and charming. A genuine pleasure.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Synopsis
A dance. A dare. An accidental tumble through time. Awkward.

Casey Donovan has issues: hair, height and uncontrollable trips to the 19th century! And now this –she’s accidentally taken Nate Mackenzie, the cutest boy in the school, back in time.

Protocol pressures her to tell their 1860 hosts that he is her brother, and when Casey finds she has a handsome, wealthy (and unwanted) suitor, something changes in Nate. Are those romantic sparks or is it just “brotherly” protectiveness?

When they return to the present, things go back to the way they were before: Casey parked on the bottom of the rung of the social ladder and Nate perched high on the very top. Except this time her heart is broken. Plus, her best friend is mad, her parents are split up, and her younger brother gets escorted home by the police. The only thing that could make life worse is if, by some strange twist of fate, she took Nate back to the past again.

Which of course, she does.

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SORROW’S EDGE TOUR—Interview with Danielle DeVor

[Danielle DeVor]If you’re a fan of all things strange and horror-ific, you’re going to enjoy this interview with the talented Danielle DeVor. A few days ago, I wrote a review of Sorrow’s Edge (The Marker Chronicles Book 2), which you can find here. So, let’s get started!

First, let me say I’m thrilled you decided to spend a little time over at Glass Highway, Danielle. You know what a huge fan of your work I am. Okay, enough with the gushing. Can you talk about some of the things that drove you to pair up a former Catholic priest with a witch? I mean, seriously, that’s pretty inventive.

I wanted to make Jimmy a well-rounded character and to do that he needed some sort of love interest. It had popped into my head early that he’d been forced to leave the priesthood, but I needed a reason that did not make him out to be a bad guy—so thus, plausible to be able to fight the demonic. (You have to have a certain purity of heart to perform exorcisms.)

So, when the idea of a situation with a girl was misconstrued popped into my head, Tabby started taking shape. She’s based on a friend of mine who happens to be a witch. And, I figured, it would be interesting to have a man of God be open minded because the church and its proclamations aren’t perfect. And, of course, having been forced to leave, he would have a more unique view of Christianity and God as a whole.

Like most Catholics, Jimmy is a pretty tortured soul—not as tortured as the possessed, but… When all is said and done, what would you like him to have learned at the end of the journey?

That sometimes things happen, and there isn’t anything you can do about it, and the only person you can truly blame is yourself.

Tabby is an interesting character. I think she plays off Jimmy very well—mainly because she never lets him get away with anything. Do you find a bit of yourself in her?

There’s a lot of me in Jimmy—mostly the getting frustrated and cussing at the creepy things. I am sure there is some of me in Tabby too, but I also try to get inside her head. I wanted a strong female character that wouldn’t be overpowered by Jimmy.

So, what was it like researching the witchy stuff?

Fun. Though, I didn’t do the research specifically for this book. I am a religion nerd. By that, I mean that I find religions, all religions, fascinating. So, I study whatever perks my interest. Witchcraft and Voodoo have been one of my subjects for a long time.

After that hair-raising first book in the series, I thought it was interesting that you decided to take the show on the road. What was your main motivation for doing that?

It is extremely rare to have a bunch of exorcisms in the same close area. Rome is probably the oddball in that respect. Here in the US, they are spread out a lot more. So, having Jimmy and Tabby have to go somewhere clear across the country was a natural thing.

I noticed that you give the reader a little taste of what’s to come in Book Three. Any other tidbits you’d care to share?

Animated dead bodies. Old Latin books. Candy. ;)

Can’t wait for Book Three! Best of luck, and thanks again for stopping by, Danielle.

Book 2 in the fascinating series The Marker Chronicles!

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Sorrow’s Edge (The Marker Chronicles, Book 2)

Uncovering the truth will take an exorcist.
 
Jimmy Holiday, defrocked priest turned exorcist, is trying to get his life in order. With his on-again off-again witchy girlfriend moving in, the spirit of the little girl from his last exorcism hanging around, and a secret organization of exorcists hounding him, Jimmy equals stressed.

When a stranger calls in the middle of the night asking for help with a possession, Jimmy is about to land in a mess of trouble. Especially since the man on the phone claims to have gotten his number from Jimmy’s old mentor. Too bad his mentor has been dead for years.

After a mysterious silver flask arrives at his doorstep, Jimmy is left with two options: either ignore the newest enigma the universe has tossed him, or listen to Lucy and travel to Arizona to solve the mystery before all hell breaks loose…again.
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tourabouttheauthora

Danielle DeVor

Named one of the Examiner’s 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors you Need to Read Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching “Salem’s Lot” way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino.

You can follow Danielle at these links:

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Excerpt

I got the phone call at three. Just as Lucy said I would. I was really starting to hate the true “witching hour.” I needed sleep, dammit.
I let the phone ring a few times, hoping that whoever was on the other end would just hang up. I wasn’t that lucky. I dragged my tired-ass body up, grabbed my phone off the nightstand, and swiped the screen.
“Mr. Holiday?” the man asked when I grunted into the phone.
“You realize it’s 3:00 AM, right?” My head hit the pillow. I did not want to be doing this right now.
The man sighed. “It couldn’t be helped. We need you.”
I twitched. Who the hell was this guy anyway? Kind of presumptuous to call somebody at random this late at night when you’d never met the person on the other end. Apparently, manners weren’t his strong point.
I glanced around the room. The lamp in the corner was on. The light glowed just enough to keep my mind at ease. I’d gotten into the habit of sleeping with a light on ever since Sorrow’s Point. Yeah, it was irrational, but hey, I was trying to keep the beasties at bay. From the dim light, I could see Lucy sitting on the floor in front of the TV. I, just barely, made out the program through her. Her hair was as pale as usual and so blond it seemed almost white. She wore the same white nightgown she always did.
“How did you get my number?” I had to know. I mean, I doubted Will would suggest me to someone else. Things hadn’t exactly ended on a positive note.
“You came highly recommended.”
That was news to me. A very small group of people even knew I did something besides graphic design. “By who?”
“That’s not important right now. You’re needed. That’s what should matter.”
I sat up. Not important to him, maybe, but it sure as shit was important to me. I squeezed the phone so hard my knuckles began to ache. If I broke it, this asshole was going to owe me another phone. “Listen. I’m not about to traipse around and do whatever the hell it is you want me to when you won’t tell me who you are or who told you about me.”
“O’Malley said you’d be difficult.”
I froze. Father O’Malley had been the one who allowed me to see the church as a vocation when I was a kid. But there was one problem. He’d been dead since before I left the church. I didn’t care where he got the information. That was a low blow. I clenched my teeth.
“I’m going to hang up now. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call here again—”
“No, wait!”
The desperation in his voice was the only thing that kept me from hanging up the phone. “All right. I’m listening.”
“O’Malley told me about you in a dream. When I woke up, your phone number was scrawled on my hand.”
Yeah, I knew that kind of weird. I had firsthand experience with it. Having a dead person talk to him in a dream wasn’t that different from a disembodied soul speaking to me in a nightmare. Yeah, my life was really interesting. Though I’d never drawn on myself in my sleep. That was a new one. “Who is it who needs an exorcism?”
The guy hung up. I literally heard the phone hitting the cradle. Who used an old phone like that anymore? I almost threw my cell phone against the wall. I mean, what the hell? Wake me up in the middle of the night for what?
I scratched the sleep out of my eyes and glanced over at Lucy. “Don’t you ever sleep?”
She stared at me and grinned. Her blue eyes almost sparkled. “I don’t have to.”
I shook my head. Of course a kid would think it great to not sleep. I, on the other hand needed my rest—strange phone calls or not. And if someone else called, I’d probably be facing a murder charge.
“Do you think Tabby will like me?” Lucy asked. She stayed dressed in this little white frilly nightgown. I wasn’t sure if it was her favorite or if there was something else at work keeping her dressed that way. When I’d done her exorcism, she sure wasn’t in frills.
Now that was the question, wasn’t it? I’d been toying with the idea of not telling Tabby about my ghostly child, but it appeared that was no longer an option. And with my luck, Tabby would eventually see her, freak out, and the whole thing would be blown out of proportion.
“I’m sure she will…” I hoped that was true. “After she gets used to the idea.”
Lucy stared at me for a bit. I could tell she wasn’t buying it. Best I start remembering there was more to her than to a regular six-year-old.
“It will all work out,” I told her. “Eventually.” Part of that was me trying to convince myself. There was only so much oddness a normal person could take, and I figured I was probably getting close to the threshold.
“Uh-huh,” Lucy said, back to watching the TV. How she could just sit in front of the TV for hours on end, I didn’t know. It was almost like she became somehow hypnotized by it.
I laid my head back on the pillow. Hopefully, I could go back to sleep. Hopefully, I could stop worrying about that odd phone call. Hopefully…who was I kidding? I was seriously screwed. Again.

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Book Review—AN EXORCIST EXPLAINS THE DEMONIC

[An Exorcist Explains the Demonic Cover]As an author of horror, I am fascinated by demons—especially as portrayed in movies like ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Conjuring,’ ‘The Conjuring 2,’ and the more comic ‘Supernatural’ television series. But as a Catholic, I am in truth terrified of the demonic. I believe they not only exist but are striving every day to win over our souls. Strong words? Well, we’re talking about the ultimate battle between Good and Evil, after all.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who died in Rome this past September, was an exorcist and author. An Exorcist Explains the Demonic is the first book of his I have read, and I intend to read more. I found his words to be both direct and comforting. Direct, because he doesn’t mince words when it comes to Satan. And comforting because, in the end, he offers hope for those suffering from ailments such as Possession, Vexation, Obsession, and Infestation.

For authors interested in true stories of the paranormal, I can highly recommend this work. Movies and television may exaggerate some of what happens during an exorcism, but apparently, they get a lot of it right. And I believe that if you’re going to write about something unfamiliar, you should research the hell out of it. For believers, Fr. Amorth offers advice on how to keep yourself safe from the forces of Evil. And for nonbelievers, the book is a fascinating read.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Synopsis
From Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the renowned exorcist in Rome, comes this powerful, eye-opening book on the deadly antics of Satan and his fallen angels, as well as spiritual remedies for each. 

These pages provide a basic orientation in the dark phenomenology, succinctly explaining Catholic doctrine on the fallen angels and the innumerable manifestations. Among the many questions Fr. Amorth answers in this book are:

Where does the Evil One dwell in the human body?
How does the Devil appear and what does he look like?
What are the powers that comes from Satan?
Do the sins of ancestors influence our life?
How are spiritual evils contracted?
What is the state of souls in purgatory?
What is the role of sacramentals in fighting off temptation?
When should exorcisms and prayers of healing be performed?
What happens during an exorcism?
What you should do when a family is being attacked by a demon?

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TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD Box Set Sale—Last Day!

[TMWID Box Set Ad]LAST DAY!
Sometimes you can find a truly surprising deal—like the one I am offering this month. This is the last day to purchase TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD: The Complete Trilogy at Amazon for a cool ninety-nine cents!

So, if you haven’t gotten into the dark, twisted world of Dave Pulaski yet, I suggest you skip the Cinnamon Spice Tic Tacs and buy this book instead.

Oh, and one last thing—when you’ve completed the journey, please leave a review. Good or bad—doesn’t matter. Reviews count.

Happy Halloween and happy reading!

Yes, I Am Ready to Buy!

SORROW’S EDGE—Taking Horror on the Road

Sequels are tough—trust me, I know. As an author, you must delve deeper into the mystery that is your hero, looking for new weaknesses to exploit. That’s right, what you want is to put this guy through more hell and see if he’ll survive. In Jimmy Holiday’s case, you’ve got an embarrassment of riches. He’s a former priest and, though still a tortured Catholic, finds himself seriously questioning the path God has apparently chosen for him. You see, Jimmy is a reluctant exorcist—and a marker. To make matters worse, he’s in a complicated relationship with Tabby, a mercurial young woman of the witchy variety. And if that isn’t enough, he’s the guardian of a six-year-old girl named Lucy who is, um, not all there.

The thing I love most about Danielle DeVor’s work is that she never takes the easy road. Her imagination seems boundless. Sure, there’s horror, demons, ghosts, and a myriad of other spooky goings-on. But I’ve noticed that she likes to mess with her characters. A lot. And the reader is better for it. And speaking of roads, the entourage is now headed for Tombstone, Arizona, where more ungodly things are brewing. Good luck, Jimmy!

There’s a lot you can love about Sorrow’s Edge. And though the book is a great read, I suggest you start with Sorrow’s Point. Pairing up an ex-priest with a witch and a ghost girl? Wish I’d thought of it.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb
[Sorrow's Edge Cover]

Uncovering The Truth…Will Take An Exorcist

Jimmy Holiday, defrocked priest turned exorcist, is trying to get his life in order. With his on-again off-again witchy girlfriend moving in, the spirit of the little girl from his last exorcism hanging around, and a secret organization of exorcists hounding him, Jimmy equals stressed. 

When a stranger calls in the middle of the night asking for help with a possession, Jimmy is about to land in a mess of trouble. Especially since the man on the phone claims to have gotten his number from Jimmy’s old mentor. Too bad his mentor has been dead for years.

After a mysterious silver flask arrives at his doorstep, Jimmy is left with two options: either ignore the newest enigma the universe has tossed him, or listen to Lucy and travel to Arizona to solve the mystery before all hell breaks loose…again.

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