At a Cleveland-area Orsk home store (think Ikea), uptight store manager Basil convinces employees Amy and Ruth Ann to stay after closing one night to catch the vandal who is defacing company property. They run into two more employees who are also staking out the business after hours, but Matt and Trinity are hoping to find evidence of ghosts haunting the showroom. Both groups find more than they bargained for in this fun horror novel. You see, the company made a big mistake when it decided to build a new big-box warehouse on the site of a condemned prison. VERDICT The faux-Ikea line drawings of furniture and use of umlauts seems silly at first, and there is a fair amount of workplace humor, but the book gains momentum and will deliver enough scares for horror fans as well. This first novel may be gimmicky, but it is enjoyable.
Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.
To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.
Retail stores that peddle lifestyle philosophies to customers and employees get a comic drubbing in this diverting horror lampoon. When three employees of the Cleveland Orsk—a “fake IKEA act” of a furniture superstore—pull an overnight shift to find out who has been trashing store stock after hours, they are horrified to discover that the building is haunted by ghosts from a prison that stood there a century before, and that the maniacal warden intends to inflict his “rehabilitative” punishments on the store’s staff. Hendrix gleefully skewers Orsk and its real-life ilk by comparing the “scripted disorientation” of the store’s layout to that of the penitentiary, and the “numbing grind of repetitive labor” that the prisoners perform to the work of store employees. The plotting is minimal, but the book’s packaging as a catalog—complete with illustrations of increasingly sinister-looking furniture with faux Scandinavian names—gives it a charmingly oddball allure. (Sept.)
Horrorstör delivers a crisp terror-tale...[and] Hendrix strikes a nice balance between comedy and horror.”—TheWashington Post
“Disarming.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Hendrix conjures up some wonderfully gruesome imagery.”—Nerdist
“An inventive, hilarious haunted house tale.”—Bustle
“Hendrix’s one-of-a-kind novel is an innovative hybrid of ghost story and satire, at once clever, gruesome, and hilarious.”—Amazon Book Review
“If you’ve ever been frustrated trying to put together furniture from IKEA, you’ll get a laugh out of Hendrix’s spoof mystery.”—New York Post
“Wildly fun and outrageously inventive.”—Shelf Awareness for Readers, starred review
“If you see me in the wild and I'm reading a book that was written by Grady Hendrix, interrupt me at your own peril.”—Sarah Gailey, Hugo-Award winning author of Magic for Liars
“Hendrix is an engaging writer.”—Santa Fe New Mexican
“A clever little horror story...[and] a treat for fans of The Evil Deador Zombieland, complete with affordable solutions for better living.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A fun horror novel.”—Library Journal
“A very clever ghost story.”—Booklist
“The book’s packaging as a catalog—complete with illustrations of increasingly sinister-looking furniture with faux Scandinavian names—gives it a charmingly oddball allure.”—Publishers Weekly
More praise for Grady Hendrix:
“National treasure Grady Hendrix follows his classic account of a haunted IKEA-like furniture showroom, Horrorstor (2014), with a nostalgia-soaked ghost story, My Best Friend’s Exorcism.”—The Wall Street Journal, on My Best Friend’s Exorcism
“Pure, demented delight.”—The New York Times Book Review, on Paperbacks from Hell
“Terrific... Sharply written... [My Best Friend’s Exorcism] makes a convincing case for [Hendrix’s] powers as a sharp observer of human behavior.”—The A.V. Club, on My Best Friend’s Exorcism
“Hendrix’s darkest novel yet will leave readers begging for an encore.”—Booklist, starred review, on We Sold Our Souls
“A true appreciation of the genre.”—Los Angeles Times, on Paperbacks from Hell
“Campy. Heartfelt. Horrifying.”—Minnesota Public Radio, on My Best Friend’s Exorcism
“Clever, heartfelt, and get-under-your-skin unnerving.”—Fangoria, on My Best Friend’s Exorcism
“A good, creepy, music-tinged thriller.”—CNET, on We Sold Our Souls
A hardy band of big-box retail employees must dig down for their personal courage when ghosts begin stalking them through home furnishings. You have to give it up for the wave of paranormal novels that have plagued the last decade in literature; at least they've made writers up their games when it comes to finding new settings in which to plot their scary moments. That's the case with this clever little horror story from longtime pop-culture journalist Hendrix (Satan Loves You, 2012, etc.). Set inside a disturbingly familiar Scandinavian furniture superstore in Cleveland called Orsk, the book starts as a Palahniuk-tinged satire about the things we own—the novel is even wrapped in the form of a retail catalog complete with product illustrations. Our main protagonist is Amy, an aimless 24-year-old retail clerk. She and an elderly co-worker, Ruth Anne, are recruited by their anal-retentive boss, Basil (a closet geek), to investigate a series of strange breakages by walking the showroom floor overnight. They quickly uncover two other co-workers, Matt and Trinity, who have stayed in the store to film a reality show called Ghost Bomb in hopes of catching a spirit on tape. It's cute and quite funny in a Scooby Doo kind of way until they run across Carl, a homeless squatter who's just trying to catch a break. Following an impromptu séance, Carl is possessed by an evil spirit and cuts his own throat. It turns out the Orsk store was built on the remains of a brutal prison called the Cuyahoga Panopticon, and its former warden, Josiah Worth, has returned from the dead to start up operations again. It sounds like an absurd setting for a haunted-house novel, but Hendrix makes it work to the story's advantage, turning the psychological manipulations and scripted experiences that are inherent to the retail experience into a sinister fight for survival.A treat for fans of The Evil Dead or Zombieland, complete with affordable solutions for better living.
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Read an Excerpt
It was dawn, and the zombies were stumbling through the parking lot, streaming toward the massive beige box at the far end. Later they’d be resurrected by megadoses of Starbucks, but for now they were the barely living dead. Their causes of death differed: hangovers, nightmares, strung out from epic online gaming sessions, circadian rhythms broken by late-night TV, children who couldn’t stop crying, neighbors partying till 4 a.m., broken hearts, unpaid bills, roads not taken, sick dogs, deployed daughters, ailing parents, midnight ice cream binges.
But every morning, five days a week (seven during the holidays), they dragged themselves here, to the one thing in their lives that never changed, the one thing they could count on come rain, or shine, or dead pets, or divorce: work.
Orsk was the all-American furniture superstore in Scandinavian drag, offering well-designed lifestyles at below-Ikea prices, and its forward-thinking slogan promised “a better life for the everyone.” Especially for Orsk shareholders, who trekked to company headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, every year to hear how their chain of Ikea knockoff stores was earning big returns. Orsk promised customers “the everything they needed” in the every phase of their lives, from Balsak cradles to Gutevol rocking chairs. The only thing it didn’t offer was coffins. Yet.
Orsk was an enormous heart pumping 318 partners—228 full-time, 90 part-time—through its ventricles in a ceaseless circular flow. Every morning, floor partners poured in to swipe their IDs, power up their computers, and help customers size the perfect Knäbble cabinets, find the most comfortable Müskk beds, and source exactly the right Lågniå water glasses. Every afternoon, replenishment partners flowed in and restocked the Self-Service Warehouse, pulled the picks, refilled the impulse bins, and hauled pallets onto the Market Floor. It was a perfect system, precision-engineered to offer optimal retail functionality in all 112 Orsk locations across North America and in its thirty-eight locations around the world.
But on the first Thursday of June at 7:30 a.m., at Orsk Location #00108 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, this well-calibrated system came grinding to a halt.
The trouble started when the card reader next to the employee entrance gave up the ghost. Store partners arrived and piled up against the door in a confused chaotic crowd, helplessly waving their IDs over the scanner until Basil, the deputy store manager, appeared and directed them all to go around the side of the building to the customer entrance.
Customers entered Orsk through a towering two-story glass atrium and ascended an escalator to the second floor, where they began a walk of the labyrinthine Showroom floor designed to expose them to the Orsk lifestyle in the optimal manner, as determined by an army of interior designers, architects, and retail consultants. Only here was yet another problem: the escalator was running down instead of up. Floor partners shoved their way into the atrium and came to a baffled halt, unsure what to do next. IT partners jammed up behind them, followed by a swarm of post-sales partners, HR partners, and cart partners. Soon they were all packed in butt to gut and spilling out the double doors.
Amy spotted the human traffic jam from across the parking lot as she power-walked toward the crowd, a soggy cup of coffee leaking in one hand.
“Not now,” she thought. “Not today.”
She’d bought the coffee cup at the Speedway three weeks ago because it promised unlimited free refills and Amy needed to stretch her $1.49 as far as it would go. This was as far as it went. As she stared in dismay at the mass of partners, the bottom of her cup finally gave up and let go, dumping coffee all over her sneakers. Amy didn’t even notice. She knew that a crowd meant a problem, and a problem meant a manager, and this early in the day a manager meant Basil. She could not let Basil see her. Today she had to be Basil Invisible.
Matt lurked on the edge of the semicircle, dressed in his usual black hoodie. He was glumly eating an Egg McMuffin and squinting painfully in the morning sun.
“What happened?” Amy asked.
“They can’t open the prison, so we can’t do our time,” he said, picking crumbs from his enormous hipster beard.
“What about the employee entrance?”
“So how do we clock in?”
“Don’t be in such a hurry,” Matt said, trying to suck a strand of cheese off the mass of hair surrounding his mouth. “There’s nothing waiting inside but retail slavery, endless exploitation, and personal subjugation to the whims of our corporate overlords.”
If Amy squinted, she could dimly see Basil’s tall, gawky silhouette through the front windows, trying to direct the human traffic jam by waving his spaghetti-noodle arms in the air. Getting even this close to him sent a cold bolt of fear through her stomach, but his back was turned. Maybe she had a chance.
“Good thoughts, Matt,” she said.
Seizing her moment, Amy ninjaed her way through the crowd, ducking behind backs, stepping on toes, and slipping into open spaces. She entered the atrium and was immediately enveloped in the soothing embrace of Orsk—where it was always the perfect temperature, where the rooms were always perfectly lit, where the piped-in music was always the perfect volume, where it was always perfectly calm. But this morning the air had an edge to it, the faint scent of something rancid.
“I didn’t think this escalator could run in reverse,” Basil was saying to an operations partner who was pounding on the emergency stop button to no effect. “Is this even mechanically possible?”
Amy didn’t stick around to find out. Her sole objective for the day—and for the next several days—was to avoid Basil at all costs. As long as he didn’t see her, she reasoned, he couldn’t fire her.