A collection of a dozen new horror stories ranging from the clever to the tired, all with an undercurrent of graphic violence, some steeped in gore.
The very best of the batch may be the first. “The Press” is a fast-paced anecdote about an author who deals just revenge to savage reviewers. Other tales that borrow from childhood fables, like “Anka,” which owes a debt to the folklore villain Baba Yaga, add too little to their sources to be wholly successful. “The Burgers of Calais” is a predictable story that’s been told before; in fact, its title may give away its surprise about the secret behind the mystery meat in a local restaurant. Others, like “Camelot” and “Reflection of Evil,” seem to be incompletely separated twins circling around the same theme. “Sepsis” may please true gross-out fans, although readers less attuned to the physically macabre may wonder what motivates the lead character, and who’s likely to enjoy the lovingly described details of deviance. Still others depend more on their nonhorrifying details for whatever interest they generate, like the strange emotional quirks of characters in “Dog Days” and “The Scrawler.” With the final tale, “Sarcophagus,” and a fair number of others, readers will either get the point or not.
Given its uneven mix of offerings, this latest collection from Masterton (Petrified, 2011, etc.) ultimately confirms a hallowed rule of storytelling: the shorter, the better.