The Hollow Places
By T. Kingfisher. (Gallery/Saga Press, 352 pages, $16.99.)
Kara has a problem.
Fresh from a divorce, she has moved back home to North Carolina to live with her aging Uncle Earl and help him run his oddities shop, the Wonder Museum. It's more of a collection of junk, taxidermy, animal skulls and various items of legend and lore.
Shortly after her arrival, Uncle Earl is hospitalized and it falls to Kara to keep the museum going. Right away, after hours, she notices that some fool tourist has poked a big hole in a wall.
She leans on her friend Simon to help repair the wall. But what they find behind it is not insulation or a crawl space. It's a long, wide hallway, extending improbably into space.
Curiosity gets the best of them, and they cross through the mysterious hall into a different dimension, as far as they can tell. Unspeakable creatures inhabit this place, with doors and bunkers spread across the landscape that appear to be portals to and from various other worlds.
The more they explore, the more they realize that this place, this time, is more Hell than Narnia. They fight to get back to their own portal, meeting piteous creatures caught somewhere between living and dead along the way.
But they do not return alone. The netherworld crosses over, too, and breathes life into the museum's embalmed inhabitants. How can Kara save her life, her world, from this spreading evil?
Horror and fantasy fans will enjoy this great standoff and the twisted dreamland that T. Kingfisher has created.
Walking With Ghosts
By Gabriel Byrne. (Grove Press, 208 pages, $26.)
Actor Gabriel Byrne doesn't mention his wives or children in his second memoir but he seems to remember every time he ever threw up. Whether it's eating too many sweets at his first communion or the inevitable result of a pre-rehab bender, the word "vomit" occurs surprisingly often in the slim, poetic volume. It feels torn between two editors, shifting non-chronologically from idyllic recollections of an Irish boyhood, alive with nature and church-centered performances, to sardonic stories about showbiz (new in Hollywood and booked into a sweltering hotel room, he asks for a fan from the concierge, who reports back that he can't find anyone who knows who "Gabriel Byrne" is, much less considers themselves a fan). It shouldn't mesh but the "In Treatment" star is a graceful stylist who candidly describes his sister's mental illness and his own molestation by a priest while finding elegant connections between childhood longings and adult mistakes.