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Book Review: The Right Thing by James Richard Larson

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Have you ever been rejected by literary agents? Have you ever fantasized about making them pay? If yes, this is the book for you! In this his latest novel, talented author James Richard Larson paints a chilling, terrifying portrait of a rejected, aspiring writer who brings her dreams of revenge to reality.

Deeply depressed by her struggling life as an aspiring author, Elsbeth Malone takes her own life, but not without making a pact with an ancient evil being first. Her husband and the protagonist of this story, Johnny Malone, is left heartbroken and stunned at the realization that Elsbeth had been practicing magic before her death. Soon horrible things begin to happen to various literary agents — agents who, as Johnny eventually finds out, are on Elsbeth’s list of agents who rejected her manuscript, A Circle of Light.

One after another the agents begin to die under grisly circumstances after meeting a mysterious British man named Mr. William Bagnold, a man clad in black who claims to represent Two Ravens Publishing. There’s only one problem — Two Ravens Publishing stopped existing in 1944. Then one day Johnny receives a message from a Ms. Lane, one of the agents to whom Elsbeth had sent her manuscript. Due to changes in publishing trends, Ms. Lane believes that Circle of Light, which she had previously rejected, now has great marketing possibilities, and so she offers representation. Johnny informs her Elsbeth is dead, but agrees to meet her because nothing would make him happier than seeing the manuscript published. A sort of romantic relationship begins to develop between them, but hell breaks loose when Johnny realizes she is one of the agents on Elsbeth’s doomed list. Will he be able to break the ‘curse’ and save her from a terrible death?

I found the story riveting from the very beginning. The premise is good, and Larson has great skill in developing detailed, absorbing, well-drawn characters. The unsympathetic agents are realistic without being cartoonish, and the secondary characters are as well developed as the main ones. Around the middle of the novel the focus seems to go off Johnny and settle on some of the secondary characters, but these subplots are so interesting, realistically written, and engrossing that they didn’t prove distracting, even though I had to ask myself "Where is Johnny?" a couple of times. I’m not sure whether Larson meant this on purpose, but I think if Johnny would have been more involved in the middle of the story, the novel would probably have been even better.

The ending is ingenious and shocking and took me completely by surprise. I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I had understood it correctly. The Right Thing is definitely a great read this Halloween for everyone who enjoys a chilling, atmospheric modern horror story. If you’re a struggling author, you will get an extra kick out of it as well.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.