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Pitch Dark

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Overview

Pitch Dark is a propulsive, layered, and brutal read. . . .  A reader can't hope for more than to discover a writer possessed of both true talent and true passion. Discover Steven Sidor."

—-Michael Koryta, author of The Cypress House

It’s Christmas Eve, and Vera Coffey is on the run. She doesn't know the men who are after her. She has never seen them before, but she has seen the horrors they visit on ...

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Pitch Dark

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Overview

Pitch Dark is a propulsive, layered, and brutal read. . . .  A reader can't hope for more than to discover a writer possessed of both true talent and true passion. Discover Steven Sidor."

—-Michael Koryta, author of The Cypress House

It’s Christmas Eve, and Vera Coffey is on the run. She doesn't know the men who are after her. She has never seen them before, but she has seen the horrors they visit on people who don’t give them what they want. Vera has something they want badly. She’d give it up if it weren’t the only thing keeping her alive.

The Larkins have known the toll violence takes on a family ever since they were trapped in a madman’s shooting rampage. They've been coping with the trauma for nearly twenty years. Now, on a cold and lonely winter morning, Vera collapses at their roadside motel. And she’s brought something with her. Together they'll have to make one last stand against an evil that has followed them further than anyone could've imagined.

With a thriller so fast-paced that it’s impossible to let go and an ominous sense that everything is destined to go wrong, Pitch Dark is an intense read from a master of suspense.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wyatt and Opal Larkin, who run a small motel in an out-of-the-way Minnesota town, are going through hard times as Christmas approaches, in this so-so supernatural thriller from Sidor (The Mirror's Edge). Almost 20 years earlier, two gunmen entered the diner where Opal worked and opened fire, wounding both Wyatt and Opal, who was pregnant with their son, Adam. In the present, 19-year-old Adam has the misfortune to be picked up after his car runs out of gas by 24-year-old Vera Coffey, who's stolen the Tartarus Stone, reputed to be a kind of compass that can point the way to hell. The victim of the theft, Dr. Horus Whiteside, who believes himself to be part of a murderous cult known as the Pitch, holds nothing back in his efforts to recover it, with predictably gruesome results. Horror fans will find little new. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Pitch Dark

"Pitch Dark is a propulsive, layered, and brutal read. Sidor reminds you of the terrible violence of which we are capable and the heart that must be called upon to endure. A reader can't hope for more than to discover a writer possessed of both true talent and true passion. Discover Steven Sidor."

—Michael Koryta, author of The Cypress House

"Pitch Dark is as relentlessly suspenseful as any crime novel you’ve ever read, but at the same time it’s as scary as the best horror stories.  Once you’ve met the walking nightmare who calls himself the Pitch—and his devoted henchmen—you will never forget them (try as you might).  A harrowing, nonstop flight into the very heart of darkness, Pitch Dark kept me up half the night—and when I did go to bed, I left the lights on."

–Robert Masello, author of The Medusa Amulet

Praise for The Mirror’s Edge

“Chicago native and resident Steven Sidor, author of the stellar macabre thrillers Skin River and Bone Factory, has outdone himself with The Mirror's Edge, a supernatural-nuanced, soul-chilling mystery… Powered by a sublime sense of foreboding and an ominous, phantasmagoric ambiance reminiscent of works by Aleister Crowley and H.P. Lovecraft…. Comparable novels have been mainstays on national best-seller lists (Scott Smith's The Ruins and Joe Schreiber's Chasing the Dead, for example), but The Mirror's Edge blows them all away in terms of fright factor and overall quality of narrative. Crime fiction and horror fans alike will find The Mirror's Edge a dark, disturbing gem.”

Chicago Tribune

“Bone-chilling… Sidor is a master of the unsettling, and each twist is more grisly and unexpected than the last. Readers won't be able to resist staying up all night to finish this haunting tale.”

Publishers Weekly

“Compelling and chilling, The Mirror’s Edge delivers everything a reader could want—strong characters, driving narrative, and the edge-of-your-seat suspense. Unconventional and challenging, yet engaging and very human, it is a wonderful novel from a talented writer.”

—David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Shimmer

Praise for Bone Factory

“Frank Miller's Sin City has nothing on Booth City... This tale is a dark classic by an author with a long career ahead of him.”

Rocky Mountain News

“Sidor proved in his well-received first novel, Skin River, that he knows a thing or two about deviant human behavior. Now he delivers an equally laudable mystery about two homicide detectives, set in the fictional midwestern town of Booth City, that delves even deeper into the darker reaches of the criminal mind.”

Publishers Weekly

“It's a hard-boiled world, presented in a brisk, brutal shorthand as tough as its subject.”

The Providence Journal

“Sidor is a prince of darkness, steeped in the noir tradition and not giving an inch. That said, he is also bountifully talented.”

Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Skin River

"Take note, and you may see a star in the making."

Kirkus Reviews

"A fast-paced crime debut. The salty prose and clever narration will keep readers hooked."

Publishers Weekly

"You can't get creepier than this. Exquisitely plotted, with a well-realized main character."

Booklist

“Unforgetable, spellbinding, and darkly suspenseful.  Sidor must have sold his soul to the devil to write this well.”

–Steve Hamilton, author of Misery Bay

“Dark, harrowing, and unpredictable as a run of dangerous river. Sidor plunges you into chilling waters on page one and barely lets you up for air.”

–Gregg Hurwitz, author of They’re Watching

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312354145
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/26/2011
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 592,354
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Sidor is the author of acclaimed novels including The Mirror's Edge. He lives near Chicago, Illinois, with his wife and two children.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

 

I’m driving on the dark side of the moon, Vera Coffey thought. She knew precisely where she was: pointed due north in northern Minnesota, at 3:01 A.M., early Christmas Eve morning. A hatcheting wind whistled as it worked over her red Camaro, trying to find a way inside. Vera felt safe for now. The Berlinetta’s cranky heater was blowing warmth through the vents, lulling her as she rocketed on a cushion of steel-belted rubber and air.

Don’t think about what you’re running from, she told herself. Do that and you’ll be just fine. She almost believed it was true.

Mostly she tried not to think at all.

The hum of the tires was hypnotic. Gray roadside monotony repeated while she tunneled ahead. Night sloped around her headlamps.

The radio didn’t help. After the witching hour, following ten miles of steep and then steeper hills, signals were dropping off. Vera liked classic hard rock. Loud, wildman drums. Power chords. A singer who had some pipes and knew how to use them. Kick-your-ass-and-make-you-like-it music. Her choices were down to four FM stations. Judging from their playlists, the twenty-first century had never arrived. She punched a button. Black Sabbath. “Paranoid.” Finished with my woman ’cause she couldn’t help me with my mind … No, not tonight, Ozzy.

Vera turned off the radio.

This particular stretch of road appeared treeless, an experiment in desolation. Even the roadkill disappeared. You had a problem out here, you had it alone. Yet, every so often, a mailbox plastered with reflectors would tip into view. That must be how the scientists did their measurements.

Subject: Vera Lee Coffey

Age: 26

Marital status: Single

Subject has reached mailbox number 1457. She appears oriented to time and place. Exhaustion stage is near complete. Sense of reality likely jeopardized.

Sleep eminent.

How far until the next town? Hadn’t she seen a sign a few miles ago?

Her face was drooping, melting wax. She prodded a fingertip into her cheek. The skin felt as if it would never go back to its original shape. She closed her eyes for a beat. Opened them again.

Nothing changed.

The same shadows encroached on the high beams. The unending tattoo of painted white lines passed on her left like code.

Her eyes closed.

Vera was not going to sleep. She promised. At most she would be taking a minibreather, a second or two of visual rest—that’s all, before aiming once more through the windshield and pressing onward. A second or two …

Vera woke.

To the sharp spray of gravel hitting the passenger side, she woke.

She woke as the dashboard bucked. The car fell away. Like rope, the steering wheel turned through her grip. A mile marker spiked up green. Its vertical white numbers edged darkness and weeds. The numbers told her where she was crashing, where they would find her broken body in the morning.

Vera held on as her daddy’s old ’84 threatened to slam off-road.

The front bumper clipped the sign. Popped it over the way a skier pops flags going downhill. One headlight winked out. The road curved ahead.

The red coupe didn’t.

Vera fought for control. She pulled until her shoulders hurt. The right half of the car dropped a few inches. Full-tilt crunch. Two wheels chewed rocks, two grabbed washboard asphalt. Vibrations kicked the chassis. Strapped in for the duration of the ride, she gritted her teeth as she pulled and pulled.

Bald tires skidded over the pebbly glass blacktop.

She had overcorrected.

180.

360.

Spin-out.

Vera heard herself draw in air, and say, “Shit.”

Here was Death.

*   *   *

Death was a snow-packed guardrail and below, a shallow creek layered milky gray with ice. Reeds poked up their hollow stems. An opossum lifted his funneled face from the ditch and blinked at the sudden wall of light.

The moon above vanished as if a hand clutched it.

Vera saw none of those things. Her eyes viewed them. Lens to retina to optic nerve—her brain registered the data collected. Recognition would come later, a memory of landscape reeling across the windshield in black and white.

Vera saw only Death.

Her scuffed cowboy boot pumped the brake. Her daddy taught her that. He bought the “Starship Camaro” in ’84, the year she was born. Daddy didn’t know much about cars, even less about the raising of little motherless girls. In two years, the Berlinetta model would be discontinued. And although he tried his best to look after his daughter until the day he died, his advice was wrong. Antilock brakes don’t need to be pumped.

Vera pressed the pedal up and down.

Up and down.

It shuddered under her toes.

Up, down, up, down.

The interior grew raucous. Frozen brush scraped the undercarriage. Pulverized snow mounds chuffed and blew apart, sending a burst of sparkly crystals drifting up over the hood.

The few remaining tire treads caught a strip of dry pavement. An astonished Vera steered to the middle of the road. She laughed. She didn’t think she was a middle-of-the-road gal. The laughter wasn’t really meant for her.

It was for Death.

After her second close encounter in the last twenty-four hours, she couldn’t hold back the fear. Death had Vera on the run. She knew what to expect now. She had witnessed him up close. Death had shown his face to her in that West Side greystone back in Chicago. Six times over he did it.

Taunted her, saying, Here I am.

His forever grin made her sweat icicles.

Look at me, honey, I’m over here. Here too.

She wouldn’t forget.

Now the reaper looked a helluva lot better in her rearview mirror. Fair’s fair. Vera got her chance to laugh. No fool, she took it.

Safety arrived as fast as danger. Vera fingered the crucifix she wore on a chain around her neck. It had always been an accessory rather than a religious relic. She wasn’t a believer. Silver looked good against her pale skin—that’s all. Well, maybe more. Sometimes if stress ran high, or if threats surrounded her, then touching the cross was a way she calmed herself down, a superstition to ward off evil.

Can you believe in Evil without believing in Good?

On an ice-covered road in the middle of the night, Vera thought so.

She knew something evil was after her.

The car sped forward between the lines. No other cars passed. None followed. This road was well chosen for its loneliness.

Vera rolled her window down. She gulped cold air. She smelled a farm nearby. On her left, she watched barn doors slide open and the glow of a buttery light escaping. Cattle moved inside. A man came forward at a brisk pace. The farmer, it must be, in his red-checkered jacket, a bucket swinging in his—no hand—prosthetic hook. He waved to her.

Then Vera was past.

Fences divided the scenery. Ice buckled in the fields. Burning motor oil and wood smoke scented the wind. She licked her teeth. Her mouth tasted like Elmer’s glue. Her left ear throbbed. Biting air poured into the front seat. Shivering, she cranked up her window. Maxed the heat with her thumb.

Thirteen hours straight through. Taking the blue state and county highways and staying a tick or two under the speed limit. She was nearing the border now but didn’t want to cross it at night. That wouldn’t be smart.

It might be suicidal.

Canada was for tomorrow.

Vera judged herself in no shape for scrutiny. She wasn’t prepared to answer questions. She wouldn’t cooperate.

Please open your trunk, miss.

She’d have to say, “No.”

Then what?

Vera needed to get off this godforsaken highway. Her empty thermos clunked under the seat as she rounded each bend in the road. She couldn’t afford to stop at a gas station for more coffee. Out here in Nowheresville, someone would remember her.

They’d say: A stringy little thing, pale, hair like a blackbird mashed to her skull, blue-eyed. Couldn’t keep her fingers out of her mouth.

If someone showed them a picture: That’s her, oh yeah, I’m sure of it. So what’d she do? Must’ve been pretty bad. Did she murder somebody?

Vera Coffey chewed her thumbnail, thinking about motels.

 

Copyright © 2011 by Steven Sidor

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    readers will enjoy this frightful horror thriller

    In Northern Minnesota, Wyatt and Opal Larkin own and manage a small motel in trouble as the new Super 8 chain is just off the highway and being Christmas Eve in a remote part of the state, business is nonexistent. The two Larkin's always look back to two decades ago when two psychopaths entered a restaurant and started shooting. They wounded Wyatt and pregnant Opal.

    Their nineteen year old son Adam runs out of gas. Slightly older Vera Coffey picks him up. She conceals from her passenger that she stole the Tartarus Stone compass to hell from Dr. Horus Whiteside. He sends his horrific horde the Pitch after her. At the motel, Vera joins the Larkin family in what probably will prove a one way ticket to hell for the foursome.

    Fast paced with a frozen tundra atmosphere enhancing a sense of imminent doom, readers will enjoy this frightful horror thriller. Although readers will anticipate what next as the plot has few surprises, the suspenseful story line still grips the audience as High Noon with evil comes to a small motel in Northern Minnesota.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Be Afraid of The Dark

    This is a pretty good thriller that grips you with tingly fingers. It covers some old ground, well trodden in many thrillers, but also unearths some new soil that leaves the reader with the smell and lingering taste of the darkness deep in your throat. You won't be able to sleep without that nightlight for a while after reading this book. If you're looking for a story filled with thrills and action, this should fit the bill. The book is written in a style that easily draws you into it's twisted off kilter world, taking you to a white Christmas you'll never want to dream about. After all the build up and anticipation, I did feel the denouement was a little weak. Otherwise, a well written and interesting chiller of a thriller. Book provided for review by the well read folks at St. Martin's Griffin.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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