Most writers would kill (or, okay, maybe just maim) for a debut novel as electrifying as Alex Gordon’s Gideon. Anchored by well-crafted prose that features a creepy-as-hell villain, Gideon feels like Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” brilliantly reconceived in a Neil Gaiman-esque universe. Gordon hooks readers from page one, as Gideon’s first few chapters are chilling and thoroughly engaging, making for a book that is impossible to put down. The only thing keeping this from being a Top Pick! is that Lauren, while a believable kickass heroine, doesn’t get to fully team up with her spine-of-steel ancestor, Eliza Blaylock Mullin. But Alex Gordon — who has a truly enviable ability to establish mood — is a writer to watch.
After her father’s death, Lauren Reardon discovers she may not have known the man who raised her as well as she thought. While sorting through John Reardon’s things, Lauren finds a mysterious tome called the Book of Endor and a photograph of her father — one that identifies him as “Matthew Mullin.” The book — and a dark force that refuses to leave her alone — brings Lauren to her father’s hometown of Gideon, where she’ll have to face her destiny ... or watch Gideon perish. (HARPER VOYAGER, Jan., 432 pp., $14.99)