Tales from the Shadow Booth Vol 3

I would like to thank the editor for giving me an advance copy of this anthology in exchange for a fair and honest review

Publisher – theshadowbooth

Published – Out Now

Price - £3.99 eBook

The Shadow Booth is an international journal of weird and eerie fiction, publishing emerging and established writers of the strange. Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, The Shadow Booth explores that dark murky hinterland between mainstream horror and literary fiction.

Horror in the mainstream can be seen as cause and effect – open the vault, release evil terror and after a few bodies return evil to vault to await the sequel. But in story form horror it is often less big budget and more the insidious feeling that something isn’t right and often the less it explains this the more powerful it gets within the reader’s mind. In this collection Dan Coxon who you may recall edited the brilliant This Dreaming Isle folk horror collection returns to a side project with a focus on more unusual literary horror. Think tales of the unexpected or that weird movement in the corner of your eyes you’ve only just noticed…

My thoughts on the stories are as follows

Cousin Grace by Jill Hand – strong start to the collection. Who wouldn’t want to know how someone was eaten by their house? A tale of two cousins growing up against the odds and yet something bad happens to her (or does it?) you quickly love both the narrator and Grace for persevering but that its all heading to an ending we know makes it feel very tragic.

Demolition by Nick Adams - a shopping centre ready to be destroyed and replaced by a glossy successor goes on the run. Its eerie, strangely beautiful to see this large building become a person on the run and its has pointed things to say about how we seem to only want new experiences in life and forget the old.

I Say (I Say I Say) by Robert Shearman – This tale involves and Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman but its less the joke collection and perhaps an examination of the darker take most of these stories have  inn terms of bad things continually happening to the archetypes and who gets left behind at it all.  Perhaps a wider look at how our nation isn’t always kind and gentle to its inhabitants.

Meat by Judy Birkbeck – a disturbing nightmarish tale of Frenalla settling into a new place with her teenage daughter. Yet people think they’ve already talked to her and it is creating ever more confusion. Very unsettling and little gets explained which for this tale works a lot.

Hermit Island’s Hermit by Armel Dagorn – a young man paddles out to the infamous Hermit Island where a mysterious Hermit resides. A tale of cause and effect in a very unusual order. Up to the reader what happens next.

The Cherry Cactus of Corsica by Verity Holloway – a teacher grows fascinated with his seemingly perfect new student who seems to want to go off the rails.  His mysterious family are very protective of him, but do they really have his best interests at heart?  A mystery and a horror story that only reveals itself to the very end but makes you uneasy as to where the tale is going.

The School Project by Richard V Hirst - this takes that unusual school moment of the teacher being inspected and makes it’s a very creepy tale where the students all think as one and there is clearly something else going on in this sweet little town. Nasty but I must admit done brilliantly

I Have A Secret by Raquel Castro (translated by Lawrence Schimel) – is definitely one of my favourites because of that ambiguity. A child’s mother returns from hospital, but they can clearly tell its not their mother anymore.  What’s going on and what can the child do?  Prepare for your views to change as the narrator tells you more and more.  Really well crafted.

Hangers-On by Tim Major – a group of mothers visit York and are told of the children who assisted those to be executed. A ghost story that when you look back was always heading in that gruesome direction…

Ten by Gregory J Woles – a weird story of a woman found in the desert by an artist. She recuperates and he works out her secrets but there may be a lot more going on in the story than you expect.  One to reread carefully afterwards just to see how this was put together.

I Am by Annie Neugebauer – A woman believes she has died and goes through an endless series of experiences.  Can she escape?  This is very much a tale of atmosphere and the settings are all not clearly explained or the purpose of made clear. It feels a fractal nightmare, but you really want the character to find a way to break it up.

Overall, an unusual collection that those seeking neat and tidy explanations may be annoyed by but those who enjoy a horror that is unsettling and often never fully explained but an eerie walk in the twilight then this is the type of collection that will appeal to you.