“Clutching the wineglass in one hand, she walked through the living room in the darkness, drawing up her bathrobe against an unsettling sensation of eyes peering at her from the corners of the room: hundreds of eyes, thousands of them, staring at her. Living things tracking her hesitant steps in the darkness.” – Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters
Susan and Al Wendt are a normal young professional couple searching for a better place to raise their precocious three-and-a-half year old daughter Emma. When they find the perfect place – a majestic old brownstone in Brooklyn Heights with a shockingly low rent – they sign a lease immediately, even though the landlady is a bit odd and a strange smell is emanating from one of the side rooms.
But soon after moving in, Susan discovers what appears to be a dried drop of blood on the bed sheets. With horror stories of bedbug infestations running rampant all over the city, a panicky Susan calls an exterminator – who finds absolutely no signs of the dread parasite.
When she finds an obscure tome in the library entitled Cimex Lectularius: The Shadow Species, a book that theorizes that bedbugs have a demonic, soul-sucking cousin called badbugs, Susan’s journey into madness is almost complete.
“Bedbugs hide under mattresses and in the corners of doorframes; badbugs hide in the crevices of human history, in the instants between seconds, in the synapses between thoughts. When bedbugs latch on, they feast on blood for ten minutes and fall away; badbugs feast not only on blood, but on body and soul. And when they latch on, they feast forever.”
Feeling as though she is literally being eaten alive, Susan vows to destroy the badbugs by any means possible…
Powered by a narrative that is decidedly understated, fans of Winters’ previous works (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Karenina) will find this tale of urban insanity to be the author’s most accomplished work to date – a psychological horror not to be missed. Sleep tight!
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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