Category Archives: Gallery Books

Review: The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

Title: The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Horror, Supernatural
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

An unforgettable horror novel from bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn—hailed as a writer of “some of the most promising horror I’ve encountered in years” (New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire)—in which a small-town boy investigates the mysterious disappearance of his cousin and uncovers a terrifying secret kept hidden for years.

Young Jude Brighton has been missing for three days, and while the search for him is in full swing in the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, the locals are starting to lose hope. They’re well aware that the first forty-eight hours are critical and after that, the odds usually point to a worst-case scenario. And despite Stevie Clark’s youth, he knows that, too; he’s seen the cop shows. He knows what each ticking moment may mean for Jude, his cousin and best friend.

That, and there was that boy, Max Larsen…the one from years ago, found dead after also disappearing under mysterious circumstances. And then there were the animals: pets gone missing out of yards. For years, the residents of Deer Valley have murmured about these unsolved crimes…and that a killer may still be lurking around their quiet town. Now, fear is reborn—and for Stevie, who is determined to find out what really happened to Jude, the awful truth may be too horrifying to imagine.

Review:

With a possibly unreliable narrator, supernatural elements and a mysterious disappearance of a  twelve year boy,  The Devil Crept In is the latest eerie and somewhat creepy horror novel by Ania Ahlborn.

Ten year old Stevie Clark is best friends with his twelve year old cousin Jude Brighton and when Jude goes missing, he is the only person in town who takes his disappearance seriously.  Due to his stutter and overactive imagination, Stevie is a bit of a social pariah in town which makes his friendship with Jude that much more important to him.  Everyone in town considers Jude a troublemaker so it is little surprise that the general consensus is he has run away from home.  Stevie knows without a doubt that his cousin would never voluntarily abandon him, so Stevie gathers his courage to help search for Jude.  A grisly discovery indicates Jude might be the victim of foul play so Stevie decides to investigate his best friend’s disappearance in earnest.  Deciding to venture to the spooky house that Jude is so fascinated with, Stevie is frightened by what he sees, but Jude’s sudden reappearance puts an end to any further investigation.  At first relieved his best friend has returned unharmed, Stevie becomes frightened by the differences he notices in Jude.  Although no one seems aware that anything is amiss, Stevie is determined to understand what happened to Jude in the woods but will anyone believe him once he uncovers the truth?

Told in three parts, part one delves into Jude and Stevie’s somewhat tragic childhoods and follows Jude’s disappearance and Stevie’s search for his cousin.  Stevie is an incredibly sympathetic ten year old boy but his various problems make him an unreliable narrator.  At one time a happy, normal child, he inexplicably began stuttering and experiencing night terrors and hallucinations.  His home life worsened dramatically following his father’s abandonment and his mom’s involvement with an abusive and volatile man who does not hesitate to mete out corporal punishment.  Although always rambunctious, Jude essentially turned into a surly juvenile delinquent after this father’s death.  The two boys are now inseparable and Stevie is quite forgiving after he occasionally becomes the object of Jude’s mean streak.

The second part of the story provides the backstory of Rosamund “Rosie” Aleksander, an emotionally damaged recluse once married to a local doctor.  Rosie is inconsolable after a tragic loss and her attempt to escape her pain leads her to a stranger and a mysterious retreat. Returning to her beautiful home in the woods, Rosie’s deepest wish comes true but in a particularly cruel twist of fate, her dream soon turns into a horrific nightmare that tests her deepest bond.

Part three is where the two storylines come together with a terrifying supernatural twist that will put even the most ardent horror fan on the edge of their seat when evil is unleashed in the aftermath of Jude’s disappearance.  Stevie finally uncovers the ghastly secret about the strange occurrences that have happened in and around town over the last several years.  Just as he is piecing together the events that have plagued the town, Stevie also learns the stunning truth about what happened to Jude and in the aftermath of his discoveries, his life goes in a very shocking direction.

Although initially a little slow-paced, The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn catapults to an adrenaline filled and sinister conclusion.  An imaginative and suspense-laden novel that I highly recommend to fans of the horror genre.

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Filed under Ania Ahlborn, Contemporary, Gallery Books, Horror, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Supernatural Elements, The Devil Crept In

Review: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

Title: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In an obsessive mystery as thrilling as The Girl on the Train and The Husband’s Secret, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison will make you question every twist in her page-turning novel—and wonder which of her vividly drawn characters you should trust.

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on; she wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious yet strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?

In No One Knows, the New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. This masterful thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins will pull readers into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows.

Review:

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison is a riveting mystery that is full of twists and turns that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the novel’s jaw-dropping conclusion.

For five long years, Aubrey Hamilton has been haunted by her husband Josh’s disappearance from a friend’s bachelor party.  Almost certainly a victim of foul play, his body has never been recovered. Her mother-in-law Daisy’s petition to have her son legally declared dead has just been granted and Daisy is preparing to begin proceedings to receive the proceeds his five million dollar life insurance policy.  Aubrey is convinced Josh is dead but after meeting Chase Boden, a stranger who bears a startling resemblance to Josh, she begins to wonder if her husband might, in fact, actually be alive.

Aubrey is a fascinating character who has not had an easy life.  Orphaned at a young age, she grew up foster care where the things she was exposed to forced her to grow up way too fast.  Foster brother Tyler protected her as best he could but Aubrey always considered childhood friend turned sweetheart Josh her savior.  Although she did what she had to in order to survive her tough environment, Aubrey completely turned her life around for good guy Josh and their storybook marriage thrived despite Josh’s grueling residency schedule, staggering student loans and Daisy’s fierce dislike of her daughter-in-law.

By all appearances, it certainly seems as though Josh is deserving of Aubrey’s devotion and adoration.  He enjoyed a fairly idyllic childhood that was marred by Daisy’s intense antipathy towards Aubrey.  However, a shocking revelation drove a wedge between mother and son and while Josh grew closer to his stepfather, he distanced himself from Daisy.  Josh dreamed of becoming a doctor from a young age and he diligently worked toward achieving his goal.  Marrying Aubrey was the highlight of his life and their life together was absolutely perfect.  But, as we all know, nothing is as ever as perfect as it appears and once Josh is legally declared dead, Aubrey receives information that suggests Josh might not have as squeaky clean as she thought he was.

Aubrey’s chance meeting with Chase is the impetus she needs to stop mourning her loss and begin to move on with her life.  Deeply attracted to the handsome stranger, her out of character behavior with him sets the stage for a possible romance but thoughts of Josh continue to linger.  Determined to accept he is dead, Aubrey is shaken when she approached by a stranger who appears to have an agenda and she decides to look a little deeper into Josh’s disappearance.  A stunning revelation from her mother-in-law changes the course of her investigation but nothing can prepare Aubrey (or readers) for the shocking series of events that is about to occur.

Written from multiple points of view, No One Knows is a mesmerizing novel that will leave readers breathlessly anticipating the truth about what happened to Josh Hamilton.  J.T. Ellison skillfully weaves past and present into a compelling mystery that is part psychological thriller and part whodunit.  As the story unfolds, Aubrey becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator when disturbing information about her past is revealed. With each astonishing revelation and every shocking plot twist, No One Knows thunders to a conclusion that is absolutely stunning.

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Filed under Contemporary, Gallery Books, JT Ellison, Mystery, No One Knows, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Angels Burning by Tawni O’Dell

angels burningTitle: Angels Burning by Tawni O’Dell
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club pick Back Roads comes this fast-paced literary thriller about a small town police chief who’s forced to dig into her own shadowy past as she investigates the murder of a teenage girl.

On the surface, Chief Dove Carnahan is a true trailblazer who would do anything to protect the rural Pennsylvanian countryside where she has lived all fifty of her years. Traditional and proud of her blue-collar sensibilities, Dove is loved by her community. But beneath her badge lies a dark and self-destructive streak, fed by a secret she has kept since she was sixteen.

When a girl is beaten to death, her body tossed down a fiery sinkhole in an abandoned coal town, Dove is faced with solving the worst crime of her law enforcement career. She identifies the girl as a daughter of the Truly family, a notoriously irascible dynasty of rednecks and petty criminals.

During her investigation, the man convicted of killing Dove’s mother years earlier is released from prison. Still proclaiming his innocence, he approaches Dove with a startling accusation and a chilling threat that forces her to face the parallels between her own family’s trauma and that of the Trulys.

With countless accolades to her credit, author Tawni O’Dell writes with the “fearless insights” (The New York Times Book Review) she brought to the page in Back Roads and One of Us. In this new, masterfully told psychological thriller, the past and present collide to reveal the extent some will go to escape their fate, and in turn, the crimes committed to push them back to where they began.

Review:

Despite plenty of dysfunction, despair and dark secrets, Angels Burning by Tawni O’Dell is a surprisingly light-hearted yet sometimes heartbreaking mystery set in a small Pennsylvania town.

Police Chief Dove Carnahan is shaken by the discovery of a burned body in the nearby abandoned mining town of Campbell’s Run but she is horrified to learn the victim is seventeen year old Camio Truly. Camio’s family is well-known for its frequent brushes with the law and somewhat tragic deaths, but Dove is stunned by their lack of interest in bringing Camio’s killer to justice. Stonewalled at every turn by the largely apathetic clan, Dove, along with State Police Detective Nolan Greely, unearth the family’s well-concealed secrets but is the information they discover a motive for murder? And if it is, is someone in the family Camio’s killer?

Although Dove is no stranger to dysfunction or tragedy, she does not let the past define her. Her neglectful but beautiful mother was brutally murdered when Dove was a teenager but she and her sister, Neely, have forged successful lives in the years since the crime. Unfortunately, their younger brother, Champ, has not fared as well as his sisters but when he turns up out of the blue after a decades’ long absence, the sisters are hopeful they can repair their distant relationship. Champ’s return and the murder investigation coincide with the release of Dove’s mother’s killer from prison and all of these events combined resurrect painful memories from her distant past but she remains committed to finding the person who murdered Camio.

Despite the lack of crime in the small town, Dove is an excellent investigator and she has an insider’s perspective of how her community works. She is keenly observant and empathetic but she also becomes very impatient with the Truly family’s lack of cooperation. Although her methods are occasionally a bit unorthodox, Dove uncovers valuable evidence that changes the course of the investigation. While troubled by the brewing problems in her personal life, Dove never loses focus of the task at hand and she eventually breaks the case wide open.

Poignant with an undercurrent of despair, Angels Burning is more than a mystery. This complex story has a cast of deeply flawed yet surprisingly sympathetic characters that are well-drawn and personable. The novel is intricately plotted with seemingly complicated storylines yet when the truth is finally revealed, reasons and motives are shockingly simple and easy to relate to. Another absolutely stellar novel by Tawni O’Dell that offers an intuitive and discerning peek into the seamier side of life in rural America.

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Filed under Angels Burning, Contemporary, Gallery Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, Tawni O'Dell

Review: The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield

guilty oneTitle: The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the award-winning author of The Missing Place—in which “Littlefield’s writing shines” (The Boston Globe)—another gripping exploration of the damage people can do to each other, and the resilience they find in themselves.

A man stands on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump…if a woman on the other end of the phone tells him to.

Maris’s safe suburban world was shattered the day her daughter was found murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman’s boyfriend. Her marriage crumbling, her routine shattered, Maris walks away from her pampered life as a Bay Area mom the day she receives a call from Ron, father of her daughter’s killer. Wracked with guilt over his son’s actions (and his own possible contribution to them), he asks Maris a single question: should he jump?

With a man’s life in her hands, Maris must decide, perhaps for the first time, what she truly wants. Retribution? Forgiveness? Or something more? Having lost everything, she’s finally free to recreate herself without the confining labels of “wife,” “mother,” or “mourner.” But will this shocking offer free her, or destroy her?

Review:

The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield is an intriguing character study that focuses primarily on two parents whose lives are forever intertwined by a senseless murder. What makes the premise of the novel so fascinating is one character is Maris Parker, the mother of the murdered teen while the other character is Ron Isherwood, the father of the convicted killer. The story begins about six weeks after the trial has ended and in the aftermath of the conviction, both families are attempting to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

For the past year, Maris has been paralyzed by overwhelming grief and her life has come to a virtual standstill. Now the trial is over, the sentence has been handed down and she must figure out what comes next for her. Her husband, Jeff, has moved out and announced he wants a divorce. While she contemplates her future, she is planning to spend a few weeks with her sister. She is rather ambivalent about the upcoming visit and after her car is broken into, Maris befriends a young woman and impulsively rents an apartment in her building where she begins re-evaluating her life.

Unlike his wife, Deb, Ron has never been completely convinced of his son’s innocence and after his conviction, Ron cannot bring himself to visit him in prison. He has come to the realization that his family’s history of violence might have passed down to his son and he is overcome with guilt for his son’s crime. Like Maris, Ron has essentially checked out life and as the story begins, he is finally ready to end his own life in a misguided effort to atone for his son Karl’s misdeeds. However, Ron makes a fateful decision to phone Maris before jumping which essentially saves his life and winds up being the impetus for both of them to truly move forward with their lives.

Both Ron and Maris are sympathetic characters but it is sometimes difficult to like them. Maris is not honest with her new friends and she takes a little too long to come clean about her past. She is also incredibly angry with Jeff and her anger seems a little over the top considering that she made her share of mistakes during their marriage. It is also very frustrating how Maris continually avoids confrontation instead of facing it head on. Her grief over her daughter’s death is particularly heartbreaking but her new friends and simpler lifestyle provide her with a different perspective that helps Maris decide what she wants in life.

Ron grew up in an abusive household and he has tried very hard to leave his violent past behind him. He kept much of what occurred in his childhood hidden from Deb and he has worked hard to maintain tight control over his own aggressive tendencies. Looking back, Ron now wonders if he was too hard on Karl and one incident in particular continues to haunt him. One of the biggest questions that weighs heavily on Ron is how much responsibility he bears for his son’s actions. In hindight, he cannot but question his decision to have children considering his family’s history.

With underlying themes of forgiveness and redemption, The Guilty One is a compelling novel. Although not a true mystery, Sophie Littlefield builds suspense about Karl’s guilt or innocence and the resolution of this part of the storyline is full of unexpected twists and turns. Overall, it is an engaging story that is poignant, thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying.

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Filed under Contemporary, Gallery Books, Rated B, Review, Sophie Littlefield, Suspense, The Guilty One

Review: A Place for Us by Harriet Evans

place for usTitle: A Place for Us by Harriet Evans
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 450 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From international bestselling author Harriet Evans, an engrossing new novel about a woman who, on the eve of her eightieth birthday, decides to reveal a secret that may destroy her perfect family.

The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

When Martha, a wife and mother of three, sits down one late summer’s morning to write out the invitations to her eightieth birthday celebration, she knows that what she is planning to reveal at the party could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent over fifty years building…

But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can’t live a lie any more.

The invitation goes out far and wide, calling her three children and their families back home to Winterfold, their rambling house in the heart of the English countryside. They are Bill, the doctor; Florence, the eccentric academic; and Daisy, the child who never fit in. As the story unfolds, each character reveals the secrets, joys, and tragedies they are wrestling with through the confines of the family. What will happen when Martha finally tells the truth?

Review:

In A Place for Us by Harriet Evans, the Winter family reunites after receiving their invitations for matriarch Martha’s eightieth birthday celebration. The mysterious message included with the invitation causes a bit of a panic with each of the invitees due to their fear that their secrets are about to be revealed. This sprawling novel weaves back and forth between past and present and despite the sometimes slow pacing, it is an intriguing read.

As the story opens, Martha has decided the time for keeping secrets is over and in spite of her husband David’s plea to reconsider, she is quite firm in her decision. Each of the family members are worried about the upcoming revelation but they all know they must attend the party.

Their son Bill is the only child still living in the local area and while he is not overly concerned about what Martha is about to share, his wife Karen is afraid that she knows what Martha has to say. Daughter Florence is mildly curious and at first she has doubts about returning home from Italy, but a personal and professional betrayal changes her mind. Daughter Daisy has lived in India for years rarely returning home and no one really expects her to show up for the party. Granddaughter Cat (Daisy’s daughter) moved to Paris years earlier and after a failed relationship, she distanced herself from the rest of the family. Bill’s daughter Lucy is struggling to keep her job and her suggestion to write an article about her family is met with excitement by her boss and dismay by her family.

Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective, so crucial background information is slowly revealed about their lives, both past and present. While Bill has a successful medical practice, his second marriage is beginning to falter and his wife Karen is becoming more and more dissatisfied with their union. Florence is a renowned professor of art history and she is shocked to discover her ex-lover is trying to oust her from her teaching position.  Angered by his betrayal, she finally decides to return for Martha’s party and at the same time, she begins court proceedings against him. Daisy remains a rather enigmatic figure but it is clear that she is deeply troubled and that her family has very good reasons to fear her return. Cat is struggling financially and although she has serious reservations about returning home, at the last minute she decides to attend the party but no one is prepared for the changes in her life since her last visit.

The first half of the novel is a little slow moving and some of the time shifts are a little confusing. The chapters are clearly marked so it is easy to keep up with which character is currently “speaking” but some of their timelines switch mid-paragraph as they reminisce about different events in their lives. Each of the characters is well-developed with a distinct voice and their lives, both past and present, are quite fascinating. The pacing of the story picks about halfway through and the last half moves much more quickly as secrets are revealed and their lives become more entangled as they are reunited through tragedy.

A Place for Us is an emotional family saga with a complex storyline and a cast of interesting characters. Harriet Evans brings the setting and characters vibrantly to life and although the storyline is somewhat somber, the conclusion is quite upbeat and positive.  All in all, it is a lovely character driven story with a unique plot and endearing characters.

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Filed under A Place for Us, Contemporary, Gallery Books, Harriet Evans, Rated B, Review

Review: Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

within wallsTitle: Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Supernatural, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Length: 464 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In her all-new supernatural thriller, bestselling indie horror author Ania Ahlborn asks: How far would you go for success? What would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed-up true-crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback, one more shot at the bestselling success he once enjoyed. His chance comes when he’s promised exclusive access to death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the notorious cult leader and mass murderer who’s ready to break his silence after thirty years, and who contacted Lucas personally from his maximum-security cell. With nothing left to lose, Lucas leaves New York to live and work from the scene of the crime: a split-level farmhouse on a gray-sanded beach in Washington State whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners—runaways who were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. There, Lucas sets out to capture the real story of the departed faithful. Except that he’s not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

Review:

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn is an absolutely mesmerizing and downright spooky novel with supernatural elements. Part mystery, part ghost story, this story is incredibly fast paced with a unique storyline that has horror/suspense/paranormal aspects that fans of psychological thrillers will love.

Lucas Graham is a true crime author who desperately needs a best-seller that will revive his stalled career and hopefully save his failing marriage. When he receives a letter from convicted murderer and cult leader Jeffrey Halcomb offering him the exclusive story about the murder/suicides of ten of his followers, Lucas does not think twice before agreeing to Halcomb’s terms. Lucas, along with his twelve year old daughter Jeanie, pack up and move across country to live in the house where the infamous deaths occurred thirty years earlier. Ghostly apparitions, unexplained sounds and eerie sightings begin immediately after their arrival and soon both Jeanie and Lucas experience extreme changes in their personality. Could there be a rational explanation for these bizarre occurrences? Or is the reason far more sinister than either Jeanie or Lucas could possibly imagine?

Lucas is on a tight deadline for his interviews with Halcomb and he immediately immerses himself in his writing project. After he runs into a dead end, he considers packing up and returning to New York, but surprisingly, Jeanie tries to talk him into staying. When a neighbor provides him with invaluable information about Halcomb and the other cult members, Lucas decides to take the book in a new direction. His once close relationship with Jeanie soon begins to suffer when Lucas becomes obsessed with the cult leader and the deaths of his followers.

Jeanie is also fascinated by the history of the house and her research leads to a surprising adulation of Jeffrey Halcomb. She is angry with Lucas for breaking his promises to her and her resentment over his neglect is relieved by her friendship with their new neighbor, Echo. Jeanie’s avid interest in the occult takes a shocking turn after Echo confides stunning information that bolsters Jeanie’s growing fixation with Halcomb. This leaves Jeanie susceptible to manipulation that could have devastating consequences.

The events from thirty years ago are exposed through a series of flashbacks that provide vital information about Halcomb and his followers. The months leading up to the mass suicides/murders are meticulously detailed and reveal how the charismatic leader exploits the weaknesses of those living on the fringes of society. These recollections show how the cult ingratiates themselves with Audra Snow, an emotionally fragile young woman who is estranged from her family. She invites them into her home and over the course of several months, she becomes a believer of their twisted ideology.  The final months and days leading up to the murder/suicides are particularly poignant and it is absolutely heartbreaking when Audra’s experiences with the cult are fully revealed.

Within These Walls is a suspense laden novel that is quite riveting. Ania Ahlborn expertly combines supernatural elements with an intriguing mystery and the resulting story is a spine tingling psychological thriller that thunders to a jaw-dropping and completely unexpected conclusion.

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Filed under Ania Ahlborn, Contemporary, Gallery Books, Horror, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Supernatural Elements, Suspense, Thriller, Within These Walls