Twisted Reunion by Mark Tullius

Twisted Reunion

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Deranged killers and creatures veiled in darkness inhabit the somber pages of this horror story collection.

This book features a number of seedy characters, but it seems there’s always something far worse—and often horrible. Vic, for example, from the opening tale, “Each Dawn I Die,” tricks naive virgins into unknowingly appearing on his vile website, Maybe Legal. But in what may be retribution for his deeds, an old woman’s apparent curse ensures that Vic suffers exceedingly. Monsters, which crop up throughout the stories, are refreshingly ambiguous. Readers won’t find traditional vampires or zombies but instead a grab bag of creatures terrifying poor Teddy in “Hit the Lights” or whatever’s awaiting Darrell and Mike in “Out There.” A few of the stories have familiar setups to establish an unsettling atmosphere. Hank thinks a trio of thugs is trailing him on foggy streets in “Wrong Side Tavern,” and student Susie of “Instant Terror” is convinced audible footsteps in the cold night belong to a “crazed stalker.” Some of these tales unfortunately lead to fairly predictable endings, including what happens to Hank in the titular tavern or the mental ward’s newest hire, Dr. Hoffman, in “Midnight Snack.” Tullius (Try Not to Die: At Grandma’s House, 2015, etc.), however, astonishes with more than a handful of the 28 short stories. Readers, accordingly, will see why Burt Brighton is Arizona’s best life coach in the delectably morbid “Bad Habits”; witness a world in which people receive a slip that tells them (vaguely) how they’ll die in “Lethal Injection”; and learn why Paul hates Christmas in the excellent “Surviving the Holidays.” The frank prose, not surprisingly, can be disturbing: “Shooting Flies,” in particular, may churn a stomach or two (“A few flies dipped in the soft, gooey tendrils”). But Tullius manages to imbue his collection with random moments of buoyancy. “Woodshop After Math,” for instance, highlights the young love between just-out-of-juvenile-home pariah Tyler and birthday girl Sam, while William and Rose make a sweet elderly couple in “Every Precious Second.” These, of course, ultimately turn bleak, but they’re reprieves from the stories’ otherwise grim tone—even if there’s no happy ending.

Time-honored frights with innovation infused throughout.

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 2015
Page count: 333pp
Publisher: Vincere Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2016


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