by Paul Edwards and Frank Duffy
Review by Robert Welbourn
I’m often wary of two authors collaborating on a book – you often find contrasting authors paired together, whose works fly in the face of each other. There’s no need to worry here though – Edwards and Duffy’s respective styles only compliment each other, and the stories the pair produce are equally horrifying.
As with all collections of short stories, the quality of the stories themselves vary. There are 12 stories in this collection, and though they’re all separate, they carry a common theme across them. Both authors are writing as much about the horrors of modern, day-to-day life, as they are writing about monsters, cults and freakish occurrences. Many of the stories come to us from broken homes, from struggling relationships – there’s something awfully real, awfully honest, and awfully familiar about the stories in this collection.
Some stories don’t quite come off – ‘The Devil is Anonymous’ is a short piece about internet comments, and the real life consequences they can have. It’s a valiant attempt at social commentary, and whilst it is pretty horrifying, overall it doesn’t really work. It’s too short to have real impact, it feels a bit rushed and a bit clichéd. Others, such as ‘The Missing Country’, stay firmly on the weird side of the horror genre and, though entertaining, are confusing and difficult to decipher.
These are only two examples from the 12 in the collection though; these two specific stories aside, the collection hosts some fantastic tales. The book opens with ‘Out of Hiding’, which tells us about a man with a fear of spiders. It sounds simple, and it begins as such, though soon gets entirely out of hand.
‘Dying Inside’ tells the story of a social worker trying to help a single mother of two children – children who never go to school, who terrorise their housing estate at night, who seem to be not entirely human…
‘Ecdysis’ (I looked it up, it’s the scientific name for shedding skin, as reptiles and insects do) is a story about abused women taking revenge on those that have wronged them.
This is another theme in the collection – single women, women who have been wronged in one way or another, trying to regain control of their lives. It isn’t a stretch to say this is a feminist collection of stories. But it’s in no way patronising – the women in the stories have been affected by the men in their lives, but they’re not defined by them. They’re independent women seeking to live their own lives in their own ways; they’ve had husbands, fathers, brothers, who have abused them – and they may be seeking revenge against these men – but that doesn’t define the characters. Though the stories in this collection are short, the characters have surprising depth, and are brought to life in incredibly vivid ways considering how little space they’re given.
Overall I very much enjoyed this collection; some stories much more than others, but there are more than enough good to make up for the very few bad. The overall atmosphere of the book – one of dread, of horror, of waiting for something awful to reveal itself – carries across the stories, and leaves you with that wonderful chilly feeling that all good horror books do.
I’d definitely recommend this collection – it’s short, clocking in at 123 pages, but that doesn’t take anything away from its quality. Edwards and Duffy have created a fantastic little collection of the horrifying aspects of the supernatural, but also of everyday life. There’s something in this collection everyone can relate to, and that’s what makes it all the more scary.
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