Book Reviews

{Review} BEHIND THE DOOR (A Kathy Ryan Novel), by Mary SanGiovanni

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{Review} BEHIND THE DOOR (A Kathy Ryan Novel), by Mary SanGiovanniBEHIND THE DOOR by Mary SanGiovanni
Published by Lyrical Underground on August 28, 2018
Genres: Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Lovecraftian, Mystery, Noir, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Psychological Horror, Supernatural, Suspense, Thriller, Weird Tales
Pages: 190
Format: eBook
Buy on Amazon


Occult specialist Kathy Ryan returns in this thrilling novel of paranormal horror from Mary SanGiovanni, the author of Chills . . .

Some doors should never be opened . . .

In the rural town of Zarepath, deep in the woods on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, stands the Door. No one knows where it came from, and no one knows where it leads. For generations, folks have come to the Door seeking solace or forgiveness. They deliver a handwritten letter asking for some emotional burden to be lifted, sealed with a mixture of wax and their own blood, and slide it beneath the Door. Three days later, their wish is answered—for better or worse.

Kari is a single mother, grieving over the suicide of her teenage daughter. She made a terrible mistake, asking the powers beyond the Door to erase the memories of her lost child. And when she opened the Door to retrieve her letter, she unleashed every sin, secret, and spirit ever trapped on the other side.

Now, it falls to occultist Kathy Ryan to seal the door before Zarepath becomes hell on earth . . .

Praise for the novels of Mary SanGiovanni

“A feast of both visceral and existential horror.”—F. Paul Wilson on Thrall

“Filled to the brim with mounting terror.”—Gary A. Braunbeck on The Hollower

“A fast-building, high-tension ride.”—James A. Moore on The Hollower

BEHIND THE DOOR (A Kathy Ryan Novel), by Mary SanGiovanni, is a supernatural horror novel that really makes the readers think, and begs the question: If you could have anything you want–without knowing the possible repercussions–would you take that chance? In the rural town of Zarephath, PA, there is a “freestanding Door” in the woods that the residents both fear and revere.

“Some doors should never be opened . . . “

When new people move to Zarephath, they are inevitably told–in whispered reverence–about the town’s mysterious Door. Rumors say that you can ask for something from it–but there are as many “bad” results as there may be desirable ones.

“Rule number one is that you absolutely, under no circumstances ever, open that Door . . . “

Kari, a newly divorced woman who tragically lost her only child, has recently moved here to try and get away from her haunting memories.

“You don’t always get it how you want it . . . “

She is one of the many remarkable characters that the author does an incredible job of bringing to life in this book. The emotional intensity, pain, faults, strengths, fears, and desires are so real that they make you feel as though you were in this town, WITH these individuals. They became more than a name and a problem they had–they became . . . human. Even those with monstrous secrets were three dimensional.

“. . . It was human nature that in times of fear or sorrow, people leaned toward wanting to believe in something over nothing . . . even faceless, nameless gods behind a freestanding door in the woods . . . “

I could practically feel the opposing pull of emotions in many of the townspeople. Creating individuals that your readers will be thinking about long after the book is finished is a challenging feat, but Mary SanGiovanni pulls it off so smoothly that she makes it seem nearly effortless.

“. . . When you ask for things that defy the laws of God and nature, it never, never works out . . . I said you can ask for anything and you can . . . but we learned quick ’round here that you don’t . . . “

This is the second standalone book I’ve read with Kathy Ryan as a character, and while her background and occult “training” are still very much in the shadows, I found that she fit perfectly into this novel–her arrival more of a gentle “ripple” than a “wave”. In BEHIND THE DOOR, her persona seemed very certain, and developed when she is called in to help the townspeople with the sudden problem with: “. . . them behind the Door.” Even without knowing her personal history, I didn’t feel that anything crucial was left out here. Rather, I felt that we were given the perfect amount of information to go on, without overshadowing the theme of the novel with excess content.

“. . . Maybe sometimes it was just as bad to get what you asked the Door for as it was not to . . . “

I think this is one of those rare novels that will stay with me for quite a while. I was certainly drawn to the well developed, complex characters, and the tense, frightening atmosphere brought about by the sudden, inexplicable changes besieging the town. However, the question of the very nature of “what” the town was up against, and the moral implications of what they had been doing–in secret–for centuries, are thoughts that I still find myself contemplating.

“. . . Behind some doors are rooms hidden for good cause in places human beings were probably never meant to know about–rooms meant never to be entered– . . . “

“. . . It ain’t natural to keep Karma from coming around and making things right . . . “

As for Kathy Ryan, she is an enigma all on her own. I am very pleased to hear that Mary SanGiovanni will be planning other novels that will incorporate this most fascinating character, as I can see that there is much potential to be explored here.

“. . . as a species, humans were survivors . . . “

Overall, I felt this novel had an incredible blend of all of the elements I look for in a horror story. Added to this, we have a mystery that remains shadowed just enough so that our minds can have free reign over what we “think” or “imagine” it could be behind all of the turmoil. Part of the ingenuity here, I believe, is that we are NOT spoon-fed all the answers, but rather invited to participate in the speculation with the townspeople.

“There were some things worth surviving rather than changing . . . “

Highest recommendation!

About Mary SanGiovanni

Mary SanGiovanni is the author of a number of novels including THE HOLLOWER TRIOLOGY (the first book of which was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award), THRALL, and CHAOS, and the novellas FOR EMMY, THE FADING PLACE, and POSSESSING AMY. Her short fiction has appeared in periodicals and anthologies for the last decade. She has a Masters degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, Pittsburgh. She is currently a member of The Authors Guild, The International Thriller Writers, and Penn Writers, and was previously an Active member in the Horror Writers Association and the Garden State Horror Writers. She lives in New Jersey with her son and her cat.


I am an avid reader/reviewer and collector of books--primarily horror, supernatural, and supernatural-themed thrillers.

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