Spring, 1983. Sally Ride is about to go into space. Flashdance is a cultural phenomenon. And in Times Square, two very deadly women are on a collision course with destiny — and each other.
At twenty-one, Ginny Kurva is already legendary on 42nd Street. To the pimp for whom she works, she’s the perfect weapon — a martial artist capable of taking down men twice her size. To the girls in her stable, she’s mother, teacher, and protector. To the little sister she cares for, she’s a hero. Yet Ginny’s bravado and icy confidence hide a mind at the breaking point, her sanity slowly slipping away as both her addictions and the sins of her past catch up with her…
At thirty-seven, Nicolette Aster is the most respected woman at the Staten Island Landfill. Quiet and competent, she’s admired by the secretaries and trusted by her supervisors. Yet those around her have no idea how Nicolette spends her nights — when the hateful madness she keeps repressed by day finally emerges, and she turns the dump into a hunting ground to engage in a nightmarish blood sport…
In the Spring of 1983, neither Ginny nor Nicolette knows the other exists. By the time Summer rolls around, one of them will be dead.
- Title: Our Lady of the Inferno
- Series: Fangoria Presents #1
- Author: Preston Fassel
- Publisher: Cinestate
- ISBN: 1946487082
- Publication Date: September 11, 2018
- Content Warnings: Animal cruelty; mentions of child abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, rape, incest
I’d like to thank Preston Fassel for providing an advance copy.
Welcome to a special Tuesday edition of Creepy Reads! I received an ARC of this book from author Preston Fassel at a Texas Frightmare Weekend panel, and I wanted to celebrate its book birthday with a review. Before I get into my review, though, I want to take a moment to appreciate Ashley Detmering’s incredible cover that I’ve been obsessing over since May:
That color! Those neons! It’s beautiful and creepy and grimy, just like the novel, and I love it. Now to the review:
Our Lady of the Inferno is a brilliant, bloody thriller that introduces two compelling new characters to the horror genre. The story is told in alternating points of view, following Ginny Kurva, a bright, ambitious woman working the streets to support herself and her disabled sister, and Nicolette Aster, a stone-cold psychopath hunting the same streets that Ginny works, as they navigate a week on a grimy, neon-lit strip of New York City.
The alternating points of view keep the novel moving at a thrilling pace, enhanced by the stark contrast between the two women’s voices. Ginny’s voice is flowing and poetic, allowing her thirst for knowledge and love for words and literature to shine through; when he’s writing for Ginny, Fassel is a man after my own heart, never meeting a comma or a semicolon that he doesn’t like. The scarcity of full stops also reflects the intrusion into Ginny’s private thoughts of the fast-talking patter she has developed to sell herself to men on the street and to her unpredictable pimp, blurring the line between her true self and the person she must pretend to be in order to survive on 42nd Street. Nicolette’s voice, on the other hand, is terse and utilitarian. A true psychopath, she understands little about any emotions other than disgust or rage, so her passages are rarely adorned with Ginny’s descriptive flourishes or insights into the human condition.
I’ve seen several critics comparing Nicolette to Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. While there’s an obvious connection there — her occasionally frenzied bloodlust, her struggle to maintain the appropriate affect when dealing with other people’s emotions — I see more of a kinship between Nicolette and Thomas Harris’s Francis Dolarhyde. They share a mythical respect for ritual and a sense of grand purpose, and they loom larger in my mind as being something other than human. Don’t let the comparisons convince you that Nicolette is an imitation, though. She’s a terrifying, compelling villain in her own right, with a fascinating backstory that unspools slowly and leaves you wanting to know much more about her formative years.
The ironic title is a brilliant summation of the contradictions both within and surrounding Ginny. She does some truly terrible things, but she never acts out of real malice; for the most part, she is a protector and a source of strength for those in her orbit. Fassel’s love for this platonic ideal of early ’80s 42nd Street is evident, as he conveys the beauty and wonder that can be found in the muck, filth, and grime in which his characters try to find some semblance of fulfillment and happiness.
Our Lady of the Inferno is a love letter to 1980s New York City wrapped up in a tense, bloody thriller that celebrates everything that horror fans hold dear. It examines the masks that we all wear just to make it through the day, and in so doing it introduces two compelling leading ladies sure to leave a lasting mark on the genre.
A bloody, brilliant story with shout outs to both Hausu and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg? Yeah, I give this book 5 out of 5 coffins.