NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (2013)
In Joe Hill's third novel, young Victoria McQueen is good at finding things, but the kicker is how she finds them. She finds them by riding her bicycle fast through a dilapidated covered bridge and coming out wherever the lost item is to be found, whether is it a few miles or thousands of miles away. The bridge itself exists only for Vic -- in the mundane world the bridge has been razed a long time ago.
Vic is one of a handful of people who can create their own reality, or "inscape," within the mind and project it onto the world. Each one of these special persons appear to have his or her own distinct talent. One uses Scrabble tiles to give her messages. Another uses a wheelchair to make her disappear. And another, Charles Talent Manx, uses a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the license plates NOS4A2 to kidnap children and take them to another reality, a construct called Christmasland, where he psychically sucks the humanity out of them to give himself youth. All of these people -- good, evil, or indifferent -- pay a heavy cost for their talent. In Vic's case, it's illness leading to a withdrawal from the world and insanity when she cannot integrate her two realities.
When Vic's father abandoned his family when she was starting high school, she began to rebel, developing a hard-nosed persona and using alcohol and ecstasy to dull the terrible nightmares that her talent has brought on. Following an argument with her mother, 17-year-old Vic hides in the cellar and discovers her long-lost bicycle, the one that took her over the covered bridge. Trying to get away from everything, Vic hops on the bicycle and takes off. Soon the bridge appears before her and she enters it, coming out at Sleigh House, a stopping off point used by Manx while on his way to Christmasland.
Vic is hunted by Manx and one of the kidnapped children -- a boy, cold, more dead than alive, with rows of sharp jagged teeth, and a desire for blood. She manages to escape through the woods to a nearby road, where she is rescued by Lou, a fat, awkward man on a motorcycle. Lou takes the wounded girl to a nearby country store. While they are calling for help, Manx drives up to a gas pump in the Wraith. Several customers go out to confront Manx, who sprays one with a gasoline nozzle and sets him on fire. Manx is subdued.
Although suspected of multiple child kidnappings, the authorities cannot prove Manx's involvement. He is convicted of the burning murder of the man at the country store and sent to prison. Manx looks ninety and claims to be some decades older than that. He slips into a coma for a decade, then dies. His body is autopsied, his heart taken out and weighed. His body goes missing from the morgue, presumably stolen.
Evil does not die easily in this book. Manx is back. And so is NOS4R2, his Rolls-Royce Wraith.
And Manx is mightily pissed at Vic, the one child who had gotten away. But Vic is no longer a child. Her time in mental institutions have made her tougher. And Vic now has a son, Wayne, whom she loves and will do anything and will go anywhere to protect -- even to the horrors of Christmasland
NOS4R2 is a fully-realized, self-assured book, zipping from horror to humor to wonder to pathos. It's one of those novels that you want to rush to the end, while at the same time you don't want it to stop. Another solid win for Hill.