When I first read THE NIGHTMARE ROOM by Chris Sorensen, I was struck at what a powerhouse debut it was. The pacing was just right, the building tension getting tauter and tauter as the story progressed, and the ending blindsided me and blew me away. I was LITERALLY astonished, and it remains to this day as one of the best “ghost stories” I’ve ever read. I knew from the start this was going to launch a series, as it was subtitled THE MESSY MAN SERIES, Book 1. This struck me as interesting because as much as I adored The Nightmare Room, I just couldn’t see how the story could progress and go further.
I needn’t have worried. In the more than competent hands of Sorensen, the sequel to his hit debut, this one titled THE HUNGRY ONES, the story not only goes forward but does so in new and interesting ways. Here, we have a lady who’s purchased a dilapidated motel which was the sight of a brutal shot-gun massacre two years before. She’s about a week away from opening when the family from the first book stops by and she rents out a room to them, and unkowingly awakens something sinister lurking on the grounds of her motel. Actually, SEVERAL somethings.
Where Peter and his wife were the main focus of the first book, they take a bit of a back seat in this outing. They still have significant roles, and the version of Peter who is now part of The Messy Man is integral to the story, the real focus here is on his son Michael and the motel owner Jess.
Sorensen structures his books much like an onion, and as we dig into the tale, layers are peeled back one at a time, revealing more and more to us, drawing us in with mystery, and then surprising us with another great finale.
I was privileged enough to be able to read the first couple of chapters of this for Chris many months ago when he reached out to ask if I’d look them over and give him some feedback. The opening is focused on The Maple City Butcher, who is looking for a drink desperately late at night. This is the same guy who shoots up the motel, and here we get a bit of a look into the man that sets everything in motion for this story. I was captivated by this character and instantly wanted to know more. Then after this sinister opening, we meet Jess as she’s readying her new motel for business. Again, I was instantly struck with how her character connected with me, like a very sweet person who saw me standing on the street, nervous and confused, and took my hand to lead me where we needed to be. And ultimately, I was hooked. When the couple of chapters Chris sent over for me to peruse were over, my heart sank knowing it would be some time before I’d get to finish this tale.
It was worth the wait. While not quite as fresh and without as big of a twist ending as the first, this was still a terrific sequel. And it IS a sequel, one where the reader will certainly need to have read the first book to understand what’s going on. There aren’t any lengthy recaps to catch us up on previous events, but there are plenty of spoilers to the first book, so if you’re reading this and interested in getting this book, stop, go buy THE NIGHTMARE ROOM, and read it first, THEN get this one. It’s the only way to consume this work.
I was initially a bit confused by certain sections that jumped back in time, retelling events from the motel from the past, but soon I caught on and ended up quite enjoying these leaps in time, which filled out the story nicely. Like in the first book, the pacing is spot on and the tension keeps winding up tighter and tighter until the chain snaps in a violent whipcrack at the end, setting us up for yet another sequel to come. Now that I’ve seen Sorensen’s deft handling of a story I was convinced couldn’t work beyond a single book, I’m more than eager to see where this story goes from here. And speaking of sequels, this one has all the elements of the very best ones: MORE. More ghosts, more characters, more seedy situations. It really ups the ante nicely.
I’m not a huge “ghost story” fan in general. I’ve liked a good bit of them, but it isn’t the subgenre I typically am drawn to. But Chris Sorensen’s pair of books display the height of the genre, hitting all the right notes at just the right tempo with just the right amount of passion. For this reason, I can heartily recommend THE HUNGRY ONES to anyone who enjoys a good supernatural suspense yarn. There’s very little gore in either of these books, so the squeamish should be fine, but be sure to have a Xanax handy because this story will put your stomach in knots.
Just do me (and yourself) a favor: read THE NIGHTMARE ROOM first. If you don’t, you’ll be lost, confused, and in dire need of explanation. Plus, you don’t want to spoil the ending to that first book before reading it. It’s just too perfect.
I listened to this one on audio, and Chris did his own narration here excellently, just as he did in the first book. Terrific audio production.
THE HUNGRY ONES is the very best kind of sequel, returning us to characters we already love, introducing us to new ones we can cheer for, and takes the story in new and interesting directions. Just remember to hang on for one hell of a ride. Find it in print, digital, or audio here.