The small mountain town of Georgetown is a hub for ghostly figures and ferocious creatures throughout history in editors Stein (Anna and the Vampire Prince, 2017, etc.) and Viola’s (Blackstar, 2015, etc.) horror anthology.
In Travis Heermann’s opening story, “Deep Veins,” brothers Frank and Emmet Grubbs are prospecting for gold circa 1861. With little to show after weeks of work, they opt for blasting open a 2-foot hole in a vein of quartz. Inside are signs of the precious metal—and also a humanoid creature with gleaming eyes. Subsequent tales, appearing chronologically, share the same setting—an ostensibly innocuous town with underlying horrors. Betsy Dornbusch’s “The Silver Belle,” for example, is a murder mystery set in the year 1875; Detective David Cook rides into town to look into the strangling death of Annabelle Shine. But events quickly escalate after another murder and sightings of Annabelle’s apparent apparition. Nearly a century-and-a-half later, in 2017, Detective Sandra Gonzales (in Mario Acevedo’s “Her First Husband”) investigates a missing person case in which the main suspect’s bogus ghost story isn’t the scariest part. Carrie Vaughn’s “Harry and Marlowe Versus the Haunted Locomotive of the Rockies,” meanwhile, features the titular British duo, “part tourists, part spies, and part archeologists,” on the hunt in 1899 for anything new and innovative, riding a train whose previous passengers have disappeared. The stories are breezy, quick reads overall, often boasting sharp prose. One particular highlight is Stephen Graham Jones’ striking “Argentine Pass,” in which the narrator sees a man with “his ratty hat brim pulled low, his face dirty behind that. Dirty and smiling. It gave me the chills. I’m not proud.” Another standout among the stories in this solid collection is Sean Eads’ 1882-set “A Bouquet of Wonder and Marvel,” featuring a charming Oscar Wilde coming to the aid of a gardener, Benson, who’s worried about Georgetown’s “unearthly silence.” Brian Keene closes the book with a warmhearted tribute to his friend, the late multigenre author Tom Piccirilli.
An impressive gathering of stories that entice and unnerve.