Alien Terrors, Vampire Conspiracies and More in 4 New Horror Books

If you want to read a novel that feels like a puzzle, look no further than Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s ORACLE (Tor Nightfire, 376 pp., $29.99). The novel, which is translated from the Dutch by Moshe Gilula, opens with two friends, Luca and Emma, who one morning spot a hulking shape in the middle of a flower field. The object is the Oracle, a sailing ship from the 18th century. Curious, Emma goes down the ship’s hatch and vanishes in the darkness beyond. She never comes out. Soon, others — including Luca’s father — and a handful of police officers suffer the same fate.

Eventually, a government agency sweeps in, spins lies about the boat and the missing people, then transports the vessel to a secure location for research, recruiting Robert Grim, a retired paranormal expert with a drinking problem (who also made an appearance in Olde Heuvelt’s previous novel “Hex”), to study the ship. Meanwhile, Luca is accosted by dark visions; people refuse to stay quiet about their missing loved ones; foreign forces try to acquire the ship; and nobody seems to see the menace the Oracle is bringing their way.

In “Oracle,” Olde Heuvelt deftly juggles many characters while delivering chapters full of supernatural mayhem. This is a novel that toys with the end of humanity, but the threshold to the apocalypse has seldom been so fun. This is Olde Heuvelt’s sharpest, most compelling work to date.

Vampires are back, and C.J. Tudor’s THE GATHERING (Ballantine, 336 pp., $29) comes to join the fun.

Detective Barbara Atkins works for the Forensic Vampyr Anthropology Department. When a boy is murdered in Deadhart, Alaska, Atkins is sent to investigate. The town’s citizens are pinning the killing on a nearby vampyr group called “the Colony,” and they say they have video proof, but as Atkins does her job, she discovers that the evidence has been staged and things are more complicated than they seem. To crack the case, she teams up with Deadhart’s previous sheriff, and together, they must find the culprit before residents do something they’ll regret.

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