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Mister Lullaby J H Markert Main

"Mister Lullaby" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Crooked Lane Books

mister lullaby j h markert poster large

Written by J.H. Markert
2023, 350 pages, Fiction
Released on 21st November 2023


J.H. Markert is the pen name for James Markert, who has been writing historical fiction since 2010 and promised in the endnotes of his previous novel The Nightmare Man that anything further which is “...contemporary and horrifying...” will be published under this pseudonym. Markert makes good on this promise, blending a serial killer thriller with both horror and fantasy elements, which is reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and The Talisman (co-authored with Peter Straub). The Nightmare Man is a highly accomplished debut horror/thriller, a complex read which throws everything at the reader, including the kitchen sink, in which a horror writer loses touch with Mister Lullaby is a standalone novel that has a very cool but incredibly abrupt ending, which promises a sequel I would be particularly keen to read. There are several subtle and clever crossovers with The Nightmare Man and if there is another book in the works, the connections will surely be explored in more depth. For the most part, The Nightmare Man cleverly disguises whether there is anything supernatural going on or not, whereas in this new novel, the unexplained occurs early in proceedings, with the reader quickly realising this is far from a straightforward police procedural thriller. As with its predecessor, the plot quickly picks up pace and develops into a solid page-turner, which is easy to whizz through.

I am not going to explore what connects the books beyond noting nightmares and dreams thread throughout both titles with the otherworldly aspect being much stronger in Mister Lullaby, with mass coma victims being connected in some unexplained way. This book does have a rather slow start, but it is worth sticking with the slightly confusing ‘before’ and ‘now’ dual narratives before figuring out what is going on with the complex multiple-character perspectives over the two periods.

The small town of Harrod’s Reach, where much of the action takes place, is an outstanding location to set Mister Lullaby and if you are after some small-town horror, then this story ticks many of the required boxes. The town has a decrepit abandoned old train tunnel which has been associated with strange goings on for over a century, ranging from disappearances to murders and unexplained sightings. Because it became a magnet for local kids daring each other to run through it, the town eventually had it bricked up, but the locals still felt a dark presence. The story opens with the discovery of a bizarre double murder near the entrance of the tunnel, the first for a number of years, with the story moving ‘before’ and ‘now’ with the killings and the complex ripple effect of where the story (not where you might expect!) takes the reader.

On the night of the double murder, Gideon Dupree returns home to Harrold’s Reach after a few years in the army and he is clearly a Prodigal Son of some kind, as there are issues with his younger brother for whom he feels responsible. There is also tension between Deputy Sheriff Beth Gardner and Gideon, one of many story strands which is teased out slowly as we find out more about the tunnel which dominates the psyche of the town folk.

The manner in which the dream element and the coma patients blend into the serial killer narrative and its connections to the tunnel is writing of the highest order. Some of the sequences when the coma victims connect together had the hair standing on the back of my neck both via sheer creepiness and the fact I was 150% behind young Sully when he starts to twitch.

Mister Lullaby is loaded with memorable characters, including chainsaw-wielding ‘Simple’ Simon, the mentally challenged man who is much more than he seems and has especially strong connections to the dreamworld called Lalaland. And let us not forget the ‘Lullaby Express,’ a bus driven by Mister Lullaby, taking a bizarre set of oddballs and killers on a very particular quest. He is a great dream boogieman character and his narrative is one of the highlights of the book.

The blend of folklore, thriller, fantasy and horror is nicely balanced in Mister Lullaby and the slow build is more than matched by a big finish that leaves the reader desperate for more. This is a highly entertaining mix of small-town secrets, populated with entertaining characters which would leave even the great Mulder and Scully perplexed!


Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Buy from Amazon UK.
Buy from BAM.

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About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer - UK
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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