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Bad Moon by Todd Ritter
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312622817
Date: 11 October 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Interview: Todd Ritter / Show Official Info /

Nick Donnelly, former lieutenant for the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau, is now a PI who specializes in missing persons. Best-selling mystery author Eric Olmstead hires Nick to locate his brother Charlie. Charlie was only ten when he disappeared from Perry Hollow on the night of July 20, 1969--the night Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Nick enlists the help of Perry Hollow's police chief, Kat Campbell. Soon they discover that Charlie was the first of numerous young boys to disappear throughout Pennsylvania. Each time there was a successful lunar landing, a boy disappeared. In a few days, the Chinese will be visiting the moon; Kat and Nick must race against time to find a vicious serial killer before another boy disappears.

Bad Moon is good. In fact, it's awesome. It is the perfect blend of horror and mystery. I didn't believe Todd Ritter could write a more intriguing, more horrifying novel than his chillingly superb debut, Death Notice, but he did. Ritter's plot is based on a parent's ultimate nightmare: a child disappears and, despite the passage of many years, never returns home. There is no closure for the grieving parents; life becomes pure hell on earth. At the center of the plot is the moon--an object of legendary mystery, obsession and horror. During a full moon, the crime rate reportedly increases and the hospital emergency rooms receive more patients. Satanists perform human sacrifices to honor Hecate, goddess of the moon. Men who are cursed transform into vicious animals during a full moon.

Kat Campbell and Nick Donnelly are strong, admirable people of moral integrity; they work well together and I sincerely hope to see more of this investigative team in future novels. Both have been damaged by life. Kat is a divorced mom struggling to raise her Down syndrome son, James, who is being bullied in the fifth grade. Nick was partially crippled while trying to capture a serial killer known as the Grim Reaper and, for his reward, was fired from the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau. Nick can sympathize with his client Eric because the murderer of his fifteen-year-old sister Sarah was never brought to justice; he is now the founder of the Sarah Donnelly Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding closure for those whose loved ones have disappeared and never been found.

On the outside, Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania, seems like the perfect place to live. Surrounded by farmland, it is a small, quiet town with a main street that is lined with quaint shops and restaurants. It is the perfect setting for a warmhearted, non-offensive cozy mystery such as Joelle Charbonneau's Skating Over the Line. Unfortunately, two serial killers have recently terrorized Perry Hollow. It is a town brimming with dark secrets, especially on the cul-de-sac where Charlie disappeared; the strange, eccentric neighbors know more about Charlie's disappearance then they are willing to share--neighbors who have built bomb shelters, made their own private porn films, and participated in secret backyard burials.

In Death Notice, the Grim Reaper was embalming his victims alive and placing them in coffins. Though not quite as gory, Bad Moon generates just as much suspense, especially when Nick Donnelly travels from small town to small town and from parks to camps looking for missing boys who are now assumed dead. Meanwhile, Kat interviews neighbors and townspeople and Eric Olmstead delves into his family's turbulent history, uncovering bitter, disturbing secrets. The two of them begin rekindling an old romance that was suddenly destroyed many years ago when Eric abruptly left Perry Hollow in search of a new life. He's returned to town more handsome and muscular but is still a frightened child on the inside; he lives vicariously through his fictional, macho detective, Mitch Gracey.

I can't praise Bad Moon enough. It is highly recommended for fans of mystery and horror. It can be read as a standalone; however, I sincerely believe that fans will want to read Death Notice after finishing Bad Moon. It is that good. In fact, this new series from Todd Ritter is one of the few that can satisfy my craving for both mystery and horror. Bad Moon is an appropriate novel for Halloween. The reader will want to sleep with the lights on after staying up late reading this creepfest. It has a shocking, disturbing ending that caught me unawares--an ending that will stay with me long after Halloween is over. In the meantime, I'll be looking up at the nighttime heavens, counting the full moons until Todd Ritter's next novel is released.

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