cover image THE PRESENCE


Heather Graham, . . Mira, $6.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-7783-2928-2

As a child, Toni Fraser has chillingly accurate dreams of murders about to be committed, a psychic gift she suppresses. Years later, Toni and five friends follow a real-life dream: they procure a ruined Scottish castle and turn it into a tourist attraction, highlighted by a faux historical show Toni scripts about a murderously passionate Cromwellian-period laird, Bruce MacNiall. Of course, the laird is fictional, as is Toni's terrifying tale of his wife's strangling. Or so it seems—until an angry kilted hunk thunders onstage one night atop a black stallion, claiming to be the castle's absentee owner, Bruce MacNiall. Ghost? Not likely. But when several missing girls are found strangled to death in the surrounding forest, it certainly appears that some murderous spirit is very much alive. The author's seamless incorporation of just a few supernatural elements into an otherwise solidly real situation makes the nightmarish threat believable. But more than anything, Graham's (Haunted , etc.) deft characterization of Toni and her friends (who are as funny and familiar as the cast of "Friends"), and especially the laird, mysterious but never one-dimensionally goth, keeps interest in the book's romance, as well as its suspense, high. Agent, Aaron M. Priest. (Sept.)