Allegedly, variety is the spice of life and this first charity anthology from The Sinister Horror Company is a wonderfully motley collection of stories from horror writers across the career spectrum, showcasing some damn fine talent, new and older.
After a heartfelt, though brutally honest introduction from Big Jim McLeod (the giant that is The Gingernuts of Horror), we get the first storm of a story as Duncan Bradshaw serves us Time for Tea, in which an ominous gathering of invitees in a basement café find themselves plunged into a murderous clash, as tea room etiquette meets Battle Royale. Delightfully bloody and instant fun.
Next to grab by attention by the balls is J. R. Park’s Clandestine Delights. The rich want for nothing, but some lusts can only be satisfied by spending a lot of money in the darkest corners of society, as one young playboy will soon finds out, what you desire isn’t necessarily the best thing for us. A brilliant build up that keeps upping the tension to the inevitable climax.
Lanmò, by Thomas S. Flowers is a slice of time in sixties Mississippi, where racial tensions run murderously high, leading to a supernatural plot of vengeance in a setting which is written in a scarily accurate manner. Gripping from start to finish as the bad guys are dealt their comeuppance.
Strangely familiar, but still terrifying, Long Haul by David James is a terrifically executed haunted house in deep space as three astronauts discover that loneliness might not be their greatest fear beyond the horizon.
Skin, by relative newcomer Kayleigh Marie Edwards is a horrific little tale that shows us that the creeping dread felt when a spider scurries into our life isn’t always the end of terror. Mixing tension and gore isn’t always easy, but Edwards folds the two together into a delicious combo that clings to the flesh long after.
Needs Must by A.S. Chambers is a short punchy fairy tale with hints of Mary Shelley and Clive Barker as a grotesque being finds that being a monster isn’t the most important thing, finding a friend is, no matter the outcome.
Ian Caldwell mixes Poe and H.G. Wells in The Octagonal Cabinet, as dangerous doorways are discovered and foolishly opened, with only a measure of care for the consequences, on both sides of the door.
Not every story hit home for me, but these are my pick of the best, and thankfully there were more strikes than misses, but of course everyone has their favourites and tastes differ wildly in the horror genre. Each tale is as different as the next, each antagonist is refreshingly new and that’s what you want from a horror anthology; new scares to dwell on before you put yourself to bed.