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Sonja Ska Reviews, 3/21/2024

Mean Spirited

By Nick Roberts

Nick Roberts is one of the few authors who can consistently freak me out. I'm talking lying-in-bed-convinced-something-is-going-to-grab-my-leg scared. It started with the Exorcist's House, continued with Anathma, and he does it again with Mean Spirited. I'd say someone needs to tell him to chill the fuck out, but I'm obsessed and never want him to stop.

Mean Spirited follows Matt, an alcoholic English teacher who learns that one of his former students has recently been killed. When he frames one of her old poems and leaves it on her steps as tribute, he returns home with her dog, a yellow lab he names Conehead. The kind gesture quickly spirals out of control as Matt realizes that weird things start happening to anyone who comes in contact with Conehead and his family is in the direct line of fire. 

Here's the thing: In the hands of another author, this could have been very silly. A dog with a sinister secret? Come on. But Roberts is the perfect person to craft this into something genuinely creepy. He has a way of writing a palpable tension that seeps off the page to the point that you're convinced something is behind you. It's the chill I'm always chasing while reading horror, and Mean Spirited is one of the few books that managed to get under my skin and made me question every noise in my house at night. 

But this goes beyond a simple horror story. Perfectly paced, every sentence fills you with an escalating forboding pressure, made worse by Roberts's placement of complex and likable characters in the center of the danger. I truly enjoyed being dragged kicking and screaming to an ending that made me want to throw myself off a cliff.

Mean Spirited is perfect for anyone who enjoys possession, the supernatural, and some really creepy shit.

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