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Nightmare City

Nightmare City

4.4 7
by Andrew Klavan

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What should have been an ordinary morning is about to spiral into a day of unrelenting terror.

As a reporter for his high school newspaper, Tom is always on the lookout for an offbeat story. But from the moment he woke up this morning, his own life has been more bizarre than any headline could ever tell.

The streets of his town are suddenly empty and


What should have been an ordinary morning is about to spiral into a day of unrelenting terror.

As a reporter for his high school newspaper, Tom is always on the lookout for an offbeat story. But from the moment he woke up this morning, his own life has been more bizarre than any headline could ever tell.

The streets of his town are suddenly empty and silent. A strange fog has drifted in from the sea and hangs over everything. And something is moving in that fog. Something evil. Something hungry. Closing in on Tom.

Tom’s terrified girlfriend Marie says the answers lie at the Santa Maria Monastery, a haunted ruin standing amidst a forest blackened by wildfire. But can he trust her? A voice that seems to be coming from beyond the grave is warning him that nothing is what it seems.

Only one thing is certain: with his world collapsing around him, Tom has only a few hours to recover the life he knew—before he, too, is lost forever in this nightmare city.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Suspense writer Klavan (If We Survive) switches to horror in a fast-paced and eerie tale that shows an awareness of the genre’s conventions and a willingness to play with readers’ expectations. High school journalist Tom Harding wakes up to find his house deserted, his SoCal neighborhood abandoned, and mysterious creatures after him. He has occasional contact with his too-good-to-be-true girlfriend, his newspaper editor, and a mysterious man who seems to control the monsters. He also sees visions of his brother, a deceased military hero, and a medical TV show with a strangely familiar patient. Interspersed with Tom’s struggle to escape, flashbacks explore the steroid scandal he reported on and the anger many school officials and athletes felt toward him. Readers will soon catch on to the cause of Tom’s predicament, but Klavan wisely shifts gears, focusing on Tom’s need for survival and his struggle to both discover and tell the truth. As the two plotlines converge, Klavan’s background in thrillers comes to the forefront, and the mysterious clues lead to elegant, intense chase sequences and a well-crafted mystery. Ages 12–up. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group. (Nov.)
RT Book Reviews
'Klavan again hits readers with a story filled with such vivid imagery that one might find themselves looking over their shoulder to make sure they aren’t the one being followed. The story-set partly in reality and partly somewhere else-grabs the reader from the first page and makes one wonder what could possibly happen next. The writing is stellar, and readers who love Klavan’s previous works will not be disappointed with Nightmare City.”
“Klavan retains his James Patterson–like gift for keeping pages turning, and the mystery behind it all—-having to do with Tom’s school-newspaper exposé on the performance-enhancing drug use of the football team—-is a juicy one, and well handled.”
Kirkus Reviews
When intrepid teen reporter Tom Harding wakes in a fog- and monster-filled nightmare version of his Southern California town, his only ways out are truth or death. Through the central story of Tom's waking in the warped version of his town and flashback interludes of the weeks immediately preceding the primary narrative, Klavan (If We Survive, 2013, etc.) allows readers to piece together a spiritual mystery concerning what has happened in the time between the stories. In the interludes, Tom exposes his school's beloved championship football team's steroid use, gaining him both enemies and the admiration of his childhood crush. In the immediate narrative, Tom must discover what's happening before monsters kill him. The few other characters present adamantly give him conflicting advice--from the grave, in one case--through foreshadowed plot twists and betrayals. Fans of survival-horror video games will recognize story structures and motifs (cellphones, televisions and radios turning from innocuous to frightening); these techniques transfer well to the written medium. A memory-loss device is most effective in its first use but becomes tedious. The biggest weakness, however, comes in flat characters and virtuous Tom's weak emotional arc. Luckily, the creepy atmosphere ebbs and flows, keeping a good rhythm up until the very end--a tidy, if slightly campy wrap-up. Uneven but forgivable given how fast, easy and freaky it is. (Survival horror. 11-15)

Product Details

Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt



Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013 Andrew Klavan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59554-797-2


Tom was in heaven when the phone rang. At least, he thought it was heaven. He had never been there before, and the look of the place surprised him. It wasn't what he was expecting at all.

Then again Tom had never really thought about heaven much. When he had, he'd pictured it as a place in the sky where dead people with newly issued angel wings sat on clouds and—whatever—played the harp or something. This, though—this heaven he was in now—this was just a sort of park, an expansive lawn with walkways curving through it and fountains spouting here and there and vast, majestic temple-like buildings with marble columns and peaked facades. There were no clouds to sit on. There were no clouds at all. A sky of perfect, unbroken blue covered and surrounded everything.

As for the people—the people strolling on the paths or sitting on the benches or standing amid the columns of the temples—they were also not what Tom expected. No wings for one thing. No harps either. Just ordinary men and women in all the various shapes and colors people come in. Dressed not in spotless robes but in casual clothes, slacks and skirts, shirts and blouses. And when Tom looked at them more closely, they didn't seem as happy or as serene as he would have expected people in heaven to look. Some looked downright lost or fretful, worried or even sad. One man in particular caught Tom's eye: a lanky young guy in his twenties or so with long, dirty blond hair and a thin, hungry-looking face; sunken cheeks and darkly ringed eyes. He was standing in front of one of the Greek temples, turning nervously this way and that as if he didn't know where he was or how to get home.

Tom's curiosity began to kick in—that eager electric pulse that compelled him to know more, to search for the truth, to solve the puzzle. He could never resist it. Even though he only worked for a high school paper, he was a real reporter nevertheless. It was his nature. It was who he was. Whenever there was a mystery, he didn't just want to solve it, he needed to. And this was a mystery: What sort of heaven included fear and loneliness?

He had to find someone who could give him some answers—and it suddenly occurred to him that, since this was heaven, he knew just the person to look for.

He took a step forward toward the park—and then the phone began to ring.

And suddenly, heaven was gone.


Tom opened his eyes and he was in his bed at home. A dream. Heaven was a dream. Well, yeah. What else was it going to be? It wasn't like he was dead or anything.

The phone rang again—his cell, playing the opening guitar riff from the classic Merle Haggard song "The Fightin' Side of Me." Dazed, Tom followed the sound to find the phone. It was on his computer table, jumping and rattling around as it rang. He reached out and grabbed it, looked at it to see who was calling. Number blocked, said the words on the readout screen. Which meant it was probably Lisa McKay, his editor at the Sentinel. What time is it, anyway? he wondered. What did she want from him this early on a Saturday morning?

Tom answered. "Yeah."

The phone crackled against his ear. Static—loud static—a wash of white sound, like the sound of the ocean in a seashell. Something about that noise raised goose bumps on Tom's arm, though he couldn't have said exactly why. It was just that the static sounded strangely far away. It echoed, as if it were coming to him up out of a deep well. It made Tom feel as if he were listening to a noise from a foreign, alien place, another planet or something like that. Weird.

"Hello?" he said more loudly.

Nothing. No answer. Just that weird, white, alien noise. And then—wait—there was something. There was someone on the line. A voice—a woman's voice—talking beneath the rattle and hiss.

"I need to talk to you. It's very important ..."

The words, like the static, seemed to come to him from across a great distance. Tom just barely caught those two phrases. After that the words were unintelligible. But the woman was still talking and her tone was insistent, urgent, as if she was desperate to be heard.

"Hello? You've got a bad connection," said Tom loudly. "You're breaking up. I can't hear you."

The woman on the other end tried again. She wasn't shouting or anything, just talking in a very firm, insistent tone, trying to get through to him. Tom listened intently. He thought he recognized her voice, but he couldn't quite place it. He thought he heard the word please. He thought he heard the phrase "You have to ..." But aside from that, the words were washed away by that ceaseless, distant, echoing static. It was frustrating.

"I can't hear you ...," Tom began to say again—but then it stopped. All of it stopped. The voice. The static. It was all gone and the phone was silent. There were a couple of beeps on the line. Tom lowered the phone from his ear and checked the readout: Connection lost.

For a minute he tried to figure out who it had been, whose voice he had heard. It was so familiar. He had been this close to recognizing her ... But no, he just couldn't get it.

He shrugged and put the phone back on the computer table. Whoever it was, she'd call back, for sure. She sounded like she really wanted to talk to him.

Tom sat up in bed, tossing the comforter aside. He shook his head to clear it. Weird call. Weird noise. Woke him up out of that great dream, too. What was it? Oh yeah, he remembered: heaven. He sat there, looking around at the room. It was funny, he actually felt a little disappointed to be back from his dream, to be here again. It had been a nice dream, a restful place. And now the memories of it were breaking up in his mind, the images trailing away like smoke in the wind. He could barely remember what it had been like, and he was sorry to see it go.

He got up. Went to the dresser, started pulling out some clothes, dropping himself into them: sweatpants and a Tigers sweatshirt. He figured he'd go for a run after breakfast, maybe hit the gym at the Y.

His room was small. The bed, the dresser, and the worktable were all crowded together. Just about every space on the blue wall was covered with some picture or decoration or something. There was his unusually long American flag. His pennant for the Tigers, the school's football team. Another pennant for the Los Angeles Dodgers, even though, let's be honest, they were going to stink this year. There was a picture of his brother, Burt, looking all brave and noble and cool in his army uniform. And a bulletin board with some snapshots of Tom and his mom and Burt and some of Tom's friends. Then there were a couple of framed copies of the Sentinel. There was the issue that had his first front-page story on it: "Governor Visits Springland High." And there was another—the one with the big story—the biggest story and the one that started all the trouble for him. The banner headline was huge: "Sources: Tiger Champs Used Drugs."

Tom left his bedroom and went down the hall to the bathroom—but he paused for a moment at the top of the stairway. He stood listening. His mom's bedroom door was open and he could see her room was empty, her bed all made up. But he didn't hear her moving around downstairs. That was kind of odd, actually. It was after eight. Normally this time of the morning on a weekend, Mom would be rattling around the kitchen or vacuuming, doing the housework she didn't have time to do during the week. But the house was totally quiet below. Not a noise to be heard.

Tom continued into the bathroom, trying to explain the odd silence to himself. Maybe they'd run out of eggs and Mom had ducked out to the store for a minute to do the shopping. Or maybe she'd gotten up late and was just going down to the bottom of the driveway to get the newspaper.

Whatever. He washed up and shaved and stopped thinking about it. He was wondering instead if the Dodgers had won last night—for a change—and trying to remember who the starting pitcher had been.

He toweled the shaving cream off his face and took a look at himself in the mirror. He didn't like his looks much. He didn't think his face looked brave or noble or cool like his brother Burt's face. But then maybe, like a lot of people, he couldn't see himself as others saw him. The fact was, when he used his fingers to brush his black hair back, his blue eyes shone out intense, smart, steely and unwavering. His features were narrow and sharp, serious and purposeful. He didn't see it himself—he couldn't see it—but anyone else who looked at him recognized a young man who knew how to go after what he wanted, a young man who could not easily be turned away.

He came out of the bathroom, went downstairs, thumping half the way down, creating the satisfying thunder of a buffalo stampede, then leaping the rest of the way, his hands on the banisters, his sneakers hitting the floor so hard when he landed that the light fixture in the foyer ceiling rattled. Now he was sure his mom wasn't here, because normally when he came down the stairs like that, she'd call out to him with some snarky remark like, "Hark, I hear the pitter-patter of little feet." Or something. But there was nothing. No noise in the house at all. Just silence.

He glanced out through the sidelight next to the front door, looking past the gold star decoration on the glass. Well, that's weird, he thought. A puzzle. His mom's Civic was in the driveway. So she hadn't gone to the store. So where was she?

Tom was about to turn away when his sharp eye noticed something else, too. The newspaper was there, outside, lying at the end of the driveway where the delivery guy had tossed it. That really was strange. His mom was the only one in the house who read the paper. Tom got the sports scores off his phone and checked the rest of the news online. But his mom—the first thing she did every morning—the second she came downstairs, before she started making breakfast, before she did anything—was bring in the paper so she could read it while she drank her coffee.

So yeah—a puzzle: Where was she?

"Mom?" he called.

Just the silence in answer. And it was that kind of silence that goes down deep. It made Tom feel sure that the house was empty.

He opened the door and stepped out. He went down the driveway, the gravel crunching under his feet. Bent down to pick up the paper. Straightened—and again, he paused. And again, it was strange ... Like, really strange.

Tom lived in Springland, California. It was a small beach town north of L.A. Usually the weather was just about perfect here—clear skies, sixty-five degrees in winter, eighty in summer, seventy in between. Today, though—though it was late April—it was cold and damp. The marine layer—the fog—had come in off the water, and come in thick. To his right, Tom could see past the Colliers' driveway next door, and after that there was nothing but a wall of drifting white mist. Same to his left: he could see the Roths' driveway and the Browns' across the street—and then nothing but fog, slowly swirling in the early morning breeze.

But that's not what was so strange. The fog was like that sometimes here. It would totally shroud the place in the morning, then burn off by noon and give way to a clear, warm Southern California day. No, it wasn't the fog that made Tom pause.

It was the silence. Deep silence. Just like in the house. It made Tom feel like the entire neighborhood was empty. Which was crazy.

Alert, that pulse of curiosity beginning to rise in him, he turned his head slowly from side to side, looking, listening. Something was missing here. What was it?

It came to him. Birds. There were no birds singing. No birds singing on an April morning. What was that about? Must've just been some sort of coincidence, all the birds stopping at once, a bird coffee break or something, but then ... where was the noise from the freeway? The freeway wasn't even a quarter of a mile away. Normally Tom didn't hear it because he was so used to the constant whoosh of traffic that it just sort of faded into the background of his mind. But it was always audible. He could always hear it if he listened. And yet, he was listening now—and he didn't hear it at all.

Something new rose beneath his curiosity: fear. Not a lot of fear: he was sure there was a reasonable explanation for all this. But a definite chill went through him, a finger of ice reaching up out of his inner darkness and touching him on the spine. No bird noise? No freeway noise? And no one on the street? What was this? Normally there'd be someone around. Stand here long enough and you'd see Mrs. Roth walking her dog or Mr. Collier taking out last night's garbage. A car driving past. Or old lady Brown—Mrs. Brown's mom, who lived with the Browns—looking out at him from the window in the gable upstairs. That was pretty much all she did all day: look out her upstairs window at the neighborhood, at anyone who was passing. But the gable window was dark. There was no one there. There was no one anywhere as far as Tom could see.

Still feeling that little chill of fear, Tom turned again and looked into the thick fog. A thought went through his head. It was a really unpleasant thought. He suddenly had the idea that something was moving in there, moving unseen in the depths of the mist. He had the idea that whatever it was—whatever was moving in the fog—was coming toward him, shuffling slowly toward him so that any minute now it would break out of the swirling whiteness and he would see it ...

Tom gave a snort of a laugh. Imagination kicking into overdrive, that's all it was. "Silliness," as his mother would call it. And in this case, she'd be right. He was creeping himself out with silly thoughts. His reporter's mind looking for a puzzle where there was none. The marine layer was thick this morning, that's all. The fog muffled the noise—bird noise, freeway noise, all the noise. And as for the rest, it was a quiet street. It was Saturday. People were sleeping in. There was nothing strange about any of it.

You're being kind of an idiot, Tom told himself.

He started back up the path with the paper in his hand.

So where was his mother, then? The question niggled at him. He could never let a question go until he had the answer. Still, he tried to shake it off.

She was probably abducted by aliens, he told himself. That has to be the most reasonable explanation, right? Either that or she took a walk. But nah, I'm going with aliens. That's gotta be it.

Tom was smiling to himself—smiling at himself—as he stepped back into the house. Smiling, he shut the door behind him. Smiling, he tossed the newspaper onto the front hall table: whap.

Then he stopped smiling.

He heard something. He heard a voice. It wasn't his mother. It was a man talking. It was coming from inside the house.

Tom was still a little spooked by the idea that had come to him outside—the idea that there had been something moving around in the fog. His heart beat a little quicker as he walked down the hall toward the sound of the voice. With every step he took, the voice grew louder, more distinct. He started to be able to make out some of the words the man was saying.

"... your mission ... what you have to do ... remember ..."

Tom came to the end of the hall and stepped into the kitchen. That sharp eye of his—and that sharp, questioning mind—saw immediately that his mom hadn't been in here this morning. She hadn't been in here at all. The lights were out. There were no dishes in the sink. There was nothing cooking on the stove. No trace of food on the counter. The place looked as it always did after Mom cleaned it for the last time at night and before she used it first thing in the morning.

Where is she?

Then he noticed something else. The voice—the man's voice—was coming from the basement.

"... the game is the point ... play the bigger game ...," the man was saying in a firm, even tone. Then there was something Tom couldn't make out because the basement door in the kitchen was closed and the voice was muffled. Then he heard, "... that's the mission ..."

Excerpted from NIGHTMARE CITY by ANDREW KLAVAN. Copyright © 2013 Andrew Klavan. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Andrew Klavan is an award-winning writer, screenwriter, and media commentator. An internationally bestselling novelist and two-time Edgar Award-winner, Klavan is also a contributing editor to City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute, and the host of a popular political podcast on DailyWire.com. His essays and op-eds on politics, religion, movies, and literature have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, and elsewhere. He lives in Southern California.

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Nightmare City 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
donniedarkogirl More than 1 year ago
Nightmare City is a psychological thriller that is full of twists and turns. There could not have been a better title for this novel! Tom's situation was a nightmare. I liked how I thought the story was going to be post-apocalyptic when it actually ended up being quite different. The premise is completely original to me and made for an exciting read.  Imagine waking up with no one around, strange creatures in a mysterious fog trying to eat you, and hearing your dead brother's voice speaking to you. It was downright chilling! Tom's memories aid him in putting the pieces together of what has happened. With each new memory, we gain more insight into who Tom is and what exactly is going on, which might or might not be completely different than what you expected.  Nightmare City is a book that I didn't want to put down and was completely goosebump-inducing. I'm looking forward to many more scary mysteries by Andrew Klavan! I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review for my stop on the blog tour. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Imagine waking up to a nightmare. How will you survive?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very exiting and left you on a lomb at each chapter! I reccomend this book highly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some of my favorite books are written by this dude.
BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
Expect the unexpected—that should be the catchphrase for Nightmare City, especially since the description of this book is somewhat misleading, I’m sure unintentionally. I was expecting a story in the vein of a post-apocalyptic but, in fact, this is something else entirely and not in a bad way. Psychological terror is frequently the worst kind of horror, isn’t it? When young Tom finds himself totally alone when he shouldn’t be, in a neighborhood that doesn’t look or sound or feel the way it should, he grows more and more confused and, yes, scared. The real terror comes, though, when horrific creatures come after him. Or is that the real terror? Perhaps worse is the TV and cellphone and computer that work in ways one could never foresee. Then again, there are the voices. Is this all a terrible dream from which Tom can’t wake up or are the monsters real? Tom is a boy who can be obnoxiously selfrighteous and yet is one I’d like to know in real life. I fell thoroughly into his story and am grateful that Andrew Klavan has branched out into young adult fiction in addition to his adult thrillers. I was a fan of his work before and now I’m even more so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The_Psychotic_Housewife More than 1 year ago
While this book is geared towards the young adult crowd, the book description reeled me in as an adult. Imagine waking up one morning to the sound of silence. Everyone around you is suddenly gone. The only familiar voice you hear is your brother's... who has been dead for six months. What would you do? Would you freak out? Would you try to find help? Or just wing it yourself? This book is fast paced with lots of twists and turns. I couldn't put it down until I was done with it. Note that I received a complimentary copy of this book in order to read it and share my thoughts on it.