cover image Plague of the Manitou

Plague of the Manitou

Graham Masterton. Severn, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8492-3

There are more gross-outs than actual scares in Masterton's seventh Harry Erksine novel (after 2009's Blind Panic), and a strong stomach is a prerequisite for readers hoping to make it all the way through this uneven horror novel. Masterton starts promisingly: Missouri doctor Anna Grey, an infectious disease expert who is studying a mysterious outbreak at an elementary school, is understandably freaked out when a patient talks to her after he's dead. The words he speaks, "Get it out of me," are chillingly similar to her lover's postmortem utterances a short while later, apparently from the same cause. But whatever tension Masterton's created rapidly dissipates with the fifth chapter, as the perspective and setting shift. Erskine, a psychic based in Florida, now narrates the action in a smart-alecky way that makes the omens of doom he observes less than alarming, even when he's working with a deck of divination cards with some unsettling images. Series fans will not be surprised when the cause of the unusual situations both Anna and Harry confront is revealed, and many newcomers will find that disclosure silly rather than terrifying. (Aug.)