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Fatalis

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Saber-tooth tigers attack Los Angeles in Rovin's gung-ho second novel of cryptozoological horror. (In the first, Vespers, Rovin imagined mutant bats tearing up New York City.) The new novel opens in classic horror style, on a Santa Barbara hillside, as something large but unseen stalks a bobcat that's in turn stalking a dog: soon there are "streams of blood, all that remained of a bobcat on its final hunt." Cut to anthropologist Jim Grand, mourning the recent demise of his beloved wife. Cut to two engineers investigating a sinkhole near that hillside; in minutes they, too, are dead, but now we see "two glowing orbs" that move "down and then away." Cut to feisty local reporter Hannah Hughes, about to investigate the engineers' disappearance; to macho sheriff Malcolm Gearhart, who's tangled before with Jim and Hannah and who can't rest easy when there's trouble on his turf--and all the elements of grade-A schlock horror are percolating away. The buildup to the expected full-tilt saber-tooth vs. human scenes is long and slowed down by soggy excursions into Native American mysticism (Grand is an expert on the ancient Chumash, whose newfound cave illustrations warn of the saber-tooths). Rovin's characters are thin but functional, and he writes zesty action sequences, making strong use of local settings, placing the final showdown at the La Brea Tar Pits. This novel offers no surprises, but, like Vespers, it reiterates horror-movie traditions with panache. The bats ace the saber-tooths by a fright or two, but fans of horror that spins on nature-gone-amok should take to this with a growl. Film rights optioned by Universal Pictures for Sylvester Stallone.

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