Breed by Chase Novak
Mulholland Books • $25.99 • ISBN 9780316198561
Published September 24, 2012

I'll admit that novels about monstrous parents and cannibalism are not usually my cup of tea, but what can I say? It's Halloween, and sometimes you just want to read something creepy.

Breed by Chase Novak (the pseudonym for  National Book Award finalist Scott Spencer) is one of the four books reviewed in this year's Halloween roundup. Reviewer Michael Rose writes: "It’s hard to imagine a more twisted or timely riff on the theme of lycanthropy, whereby the monsters must fend off a desire to devour their own children. Best of all, Breed serves up a vivid allegory on the malaise and corruption of formerly Communist countries in Eastern Europe."

I'll add that the novel is also an honest-to-goodness page-turner. The story takes off after wealthy couple Alex and Leslie travel to Slovenia to undergo an expensive fertility treatment—and they experience some unusual and extreme side effects. Ten years later, their twins Alice and Adam are terrified of their parents and running for their lives. The story is gruesome and gory, but it's also a lot of fun to read. Here's an excerpt from the early pages, when Alex and Leslie first step into the fertility doctor's office:

The top floor of Dr. Kis's could use a sweeping. It could also—and more urgently—use a good hosing-down. In front of a mahogany and milk-glass door, there is a scatter of magazines on the floor, as if no one has been here in weeks.

Alex makes a face meant to amuse Leslie, a face that says Uh-oh, this might be the craziest thing we have ever done. And with that he opens the door and they find themselves in a waiting room of sorts. There are a couple of flimsy chairs, a vinyl love seat. No other patients, no receptionist.

Silence, except for the sound of the rain spattering on the roof.

"Hello?" Leslie calls out.

"We might be a little early," Alex says.

"Alex?" Leslie says, her voice shaking. She lifts her arm to point at something, but fear has seized her nervous system so suddenly and so violently, it is all she can do to raise her arm a few inches.

Alex follows the path Leslie's eyes burn into the air and sees, standing in the corner . . . something. At first he thinks it is a bear. And then he sees it as a wolf. What it actually is is an immense dog, a black and brown rottweiler with vile yellow eyes. Its head juts forward, and a low growl rumbles in its chest.

Compelled by an ancient code of protectiveness, Alex stands in front of Leslie and feels her fingers digging into him. The best steps closer and closer to them, and still closer. Saliva thick as sour cream hangs from the serrated pink edges of its mouth. Its eyes are imbecilic with avidity, and a smell of meat rises from its flanks and loins.

Eek! You'll just have to read the book yourself to find out what happens next. And on that note . . . Happy Halloween! What are you reading today? Will you read Breed?

What are your recommendations for scary books?

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