The Influence by Bentley Little, Narrated by Joe Barrett

Things haven’t been going well for Ross Lowry. He’s lost his engineering job and struggled to find a new source of income. His troubles are essentially ignored by members of his family, many of whom had no difficulty accepting his assistance when he was in the position to offer it.
All of that begins to change when his cousin, Lita, and her husband, Dave, invite Ross to spend some time at their ranch in the isolated, small town of Magdelena, AZ. There’s something about the peace of being there that makes him feel like he can take them up on their offer of staying for an extended period. It seems like an excellent opportunity. Ross figures that he can sublet his place in California while assisting Dave and Lita around the ranch and continuing his online job search.
Everything seems fine at first. But during the New Years’ celebration at Cameron Holtz’s ranch, when the celebrants fire their guns into the sky, something other than spent ammunition comes falling down.
From that point on, everything begins to change.
Animals begin dying. Those that don’t die, begin undergoing strange and unsettling transformations, both physical and behavioral. It isn’t just the animals, though, as the residents of Magdelena change as well. The status quo shifts in unpredictable manners as fortunes and positions within the community go topsy turvy.
Will Ross and his small group of friends and family be able to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late for them to avoid a fate similar to seemingly everyone else? What is the monstrous thing being worshipped on Cameron Holtz’s ranch, and is it something worthy of adoration?
While this isn’t the best of Bentley Little’s work, it is as deeply unsettling and imaginative as anything else he’s written. Elements of body horror and psychological horror meld perfectly with supernatural and spiritual elements to create a narrative that demands the reader/listener not turn away.
Joe Barrett’s narration captures the confusion and desperation Ross and the others experience as the story grows progressively more disturbing and unreal. The characters are distinctly voiced and three-dimensional.

The Haunted by Bentley Little, Narrated by Dan Butler

Concerned that their neighborhood might be going downhill, Julian and Claire Perry decide to look at some available properties in their small town of Jardine, New Mexico. Drawn to a house in the historic district near downtown, they’ll soon discover that some neighborhoods are worse than others, and some homes can be worse than they’d ever imagined.
Bentley Little is a master of the haunted house story, somehow managing never to retread his other material, keeping the tales fresh and filled with new horrors each time. The Haunted is no exception.
The Haunted isn’t a story of gradually building unease and uncertainty, as we encounter from many tales of haunted houses. As with most hauntings, it begins with the children, but it isn’t long before everyone in the family recognizes the danger in their home on Rainey Street. It soon becomes clear that everyone in the neighborhood knows what the Perry family will discover. There is no subtlety to the monstrous presence lurking in the Perry family’s new home, and its reach is greater than any of them could have known.
As is often the case with Little’s writing, there’s a massive history he’s built up leading to the events of the novel itself, and he provides readers with tantalizing glimpses of the detailed past as the story approaches its climax. The presence in their home is no mere ghost, and the house is only the most recent structure built on that place.
Dan Butler’s narration is excellent, leaving nothing to be desired. The best narrators do one of two things, they either bring the story and its characters to life, or they manage to make the listener feel almost as though they’re reading the book themselves. Butler is of the latter variety, and one of the better narrators I’ve come across in that respect.

The Handyman by Bentley Little, Narrated by Chris Andrew Ciulla

Daniel is a real estate agent leading a couple through a cabin when the husband suggests, “It’s like a Frank house.” From there, everything changes in Daniel’s life. When Daniel was a child, his family had purchased land in Randall, AZ from a man named Frank Watkins, and they’d hired Frank to assemble the prefabricated A-frame they’d be using as a vacation home. He knew, first-hand, what it meant to live in a Frank House, but he’d still only glimpsed a fragment of what that meant.
As the memories of his surreal childhood experiences with Frank come rushing back to him, along with the tragedies that followed, Daniel finds himself driven by a compulsion to find the strange and sinister man who ruined his life. As he’ll soon discover, Daniel’s was not the only life ruined by living in a Frank House, and it’s more than shoddy workmanship and incompetence involved. It seems like there might be some cruel design behind it all.
The reader is treated to unsettling glimpses into the world Frank is crafting with his seemingly alien compulsions, whetting the appetite and setting the mind awhirl as we approach the dizzying and horrific conclusion in the missing town of Plutarch, TX.
A ghost story with a hint of cosmic horror resides at the center of the mystery Bentley Little lays out for us with The Handyman. There’s a hint of Danielewski’s House of Leaves in these pages and a little bit of the Winchester Mystery House thrown in for flavor, but it’s distinctly Little in craftsmanship.
The narration provided by Chris Andrew Ciulla is fantastic, especially on those rare occasions when we get to hear Frank brought to life with his peculiar speech pattern and unusual cadence.