Spooky stories covering multiple subgenres, plus some added attractions.
Few horrific tropes or creepy conventions are overlooked in Duplessie’s debut. The stories are arranged into six sections: “Short Frights for Dark Nights,” “Anatomical Anomalies,” “Five Minutes in the Future,” “Be Careful Who You Trust,” “The Dark Web,” and “The Unearthly, the Ghoulish, and the Downright Monstrous.” Some of the best entries are grounded in familiar setups, but Duplessie is careful to avoid repetition. The stories’ relatively short lengths and the crisp, direct writing style make this volume inviting for even reluctant readers, but it doesn’t shy away from the truly terrifying and grotesque. That said, the grisliest events are often described with poetic elegance rather than gratuitous violence: “His face collapsed like an empty paper bag.” The stories frequently conclude with the suggestion of frights to come rather than graphic depictions. One ends with an overly curious girl getting sealed up in a brick wall. Another foreshadows the murderous power of a cellphone. Highlights include the eerie “The Reaping,” in which the prick of a rose’s thorn triggers a spate of bloodlust, and “Chamber of Horrors,” which features a murderous iron maiden. Each story ends with a bonus in the form of a QR code and instructions to “scan the code for a scare”—if readers dare. Short, eerie poems are peppered throughout; there are even a handful of riddles. Most characters read white; names cue some ethnic diversity.
A fresh, generous, wide-ranging compendium of frights.