Review: Orphans of Wonderland by Greg F. Gifune

orphans-of-wonderlandAbout Orphans of Wonderland

March 3, 2015

Pray it’s only paranoia.

Twenty years ago, journalist Joel Walker wrote a book about a ritual killing. It exploded into a bestseller and became part of the mass Satanic hysteria of the 1980s. However, his story and the evil he investigated were real and left him the victim of a nervous breakdown.

For the last two decades, his has been a quiet existence far from his former home in Massachusetts. But when one of his childhood friends is brutally murdered and rumored to have been involved in bizarre medical experiments, Joel is lured back to find out what really happened.

Joel must delve deep into the darkness once more, investigating all the way back to his own childhood, and the secrets he and his old friends buried there years ago. But where do paranoia and madness end and real evil begin? With the Orphans of Wonderland.

About the Author

Called "One of the best writers of his generation" by both the Roswell Literary Review and author Brian Keene, GREG F. GIFUNE is the author of numerous short stories, several novels, screenplays and two short story collections (HERETICS and DOWN TO SLEEP). His work has been published all over the world, consistently praised by readers and critics alike, received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and The Midwest Book Review (among others) and has recently garnered interest from Hollywood. His novels include CHILDREN OF CHAOS, DOMINION, THE BLEEDING SEASON, DEEP NIGHT, BLOOD IN ELECTRIC BLUE, SAYING UNCLE, A VIEW FROM THE LAKE, NIGHT WORK, DRAGO DESCENDING, CATCHING HELL, JUDAS GOAT and LONG AFTER DARK. Greg resides in Massachusetts with his wife Carol and a bevy of cats. He can be reached online at: or through his official web site at:

My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced reader's copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley for review.]

Although I've not read nearly enough of Greg F. Gifune's work, the few titles of his that I have are quickly making me a fan. He's a terrific writer and able to create believable characters in a short amount of time.

I've only read Lords of Twilight and Oasis of the Damned previously, with this book, Orphans of Wonderland, being the first full-length novel, and what impresses me the most is his breadth as an author. So, while I only have three titles to base a judgement on his oeuvre, his work thus far has never struck me as derivative, and it's impossible to fancy him as a one-note author, hammering away at the same themes and concepts from book to book. There's a few writer's out there who have made a career out of writing basically the same novel for decades on end, but Gifune is quite clearly not one of them. Orphans is completely different from Oasis, which was a stark contrast to Lords of Twilight. And I freakin' love that!

Orphans of Wonderland plays like traditional mystery, but with dashes of the weird. The main protag here is Joel, a small-town reporter who once made a big-time splash with his investigation of a young girl's murder at the hands of a Satanic cult. He's disappeared into obscurity, living with his wife and covering local events where he writes about school cafeteria lunch programs and reports little league scores. After a childhood friend, Lonnie, is killed, he's pulled back into investigating the dark events surrounding the murder, as well as his own past.

Frankly, there's a lot going on here. It's a dense story, but Gifune juggles it well. The plot is infused with the occult, demons, mysterious radio broadcasts, and far-reaching conspiracies. Think The X-Files in its heyday, but with a stronger Kolchak influence, thanks to Joel's journalism pedigree. What I loved most about it was the layered sense of history, as Joel reflects on his childhood and the friends he's lost - and forced to suddenly reunite with - as he gets closer to uncovering the truth behind Lonnie's demise. And as Joel discovers those truths? Man, it's a powerhouse, and I could feel little parts of myself cracking in sympathy for him.

The only complaint I have is that the ending wasn't quite as powerful as the events preceding it. It lacked some of the oomph I was expecting, and it didn't really dazzle or surprise, with the last-minute reveal acting as more of a confirmation of my suspicions rather than unexpected twist.

But, that minor bit aside, I totally dug this book and find it an easy one to recommend. The story has so much going for it, and Gifune gets so many things right, that it's easily worth the time to read. Check it out!

Buy Orphans of Wonderland AT Amazon

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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