19. "The Gingerbread Girl" (Novella)

Original publication date: 2007
Included in: Just After Sunset (2008)

“The Gingerbread Girl” begins as a somber look at a mother’s post-tragedy grieving process; when we meet the protagonist, Emily, she’s a tormented soul partial to running as a means of coping with the crib death of her only daughter. Hoping to get away from the painful memories and start anew, she visits a family home on the Florida Keys, where she runs even more than before, loses tons of weight, and makes good with the locals.

But then King takes a hard left turn, introducing Jim Pickering, one of Emily’s new neighbors who also happens to be a perverted sociopath. Pickering abducts Emily and duct-tapes her to a chair, and when she’s escapes Pickering chases her with a pair of scissors—that’s where “The Gingerbread Girl” shifts from the best kind of Lifetime drama to a gory, fast-paced slasher movie on page. And it’s entertaining as hell.