Phillips (Quigsnip, 2014) offers a collection of mostly dark and often supernaturally tinged short stories, many inspired by urban legends or classic literature.
The kids checking out the haunted house in the lengthy tale “A Horror of a Different Color” find a beast taken from H.P. Lovecraft’s tales of tentacled horrors. “The Napoleon of Crime” is a Sherlock Holmes story that explores the idea of whether his nemesis, professor James Moriarty, was real or a figment of Holmes’ imagination. The narrator of “The Forsaken Ones” finds the “Black-Eyed Kids” of an urban legend on his doorstep one Halloween, which makes him question the nature of the Christian God. “The Tasmanian Pet” similarly draws inspiration from such legends—specifically, the story of “The Mexican Pet”; here, a woman on vacation in Tasmania finds what she thinks is a puppy, only to find out, too late, that she’s very wrong. Others feature trick endings, similar to what one might find in a Twilight Zone episode; in “Independence Day,” for instance, two British kids visiting family in America for July Fourth celebrations find themselves at the center of a dark ceremony; it all seems like a dream until they see a shocking news report. The best and most original work, though is the titular “Snap-Dragon,” a well-structured ghost story that draws on the Twelfth Night tradition of telling supernatural tales, which Phillips executes wonderfully. Many of the others are lacking, however; “Just Like Jeremy,” a tale about a boy granted a wish by a genie, has an utterly predictable conclusion. Rosillia and Ishmael, the star-crossed teens in “Blackberry Wine,” run into a little difficulty when Rosillia’s disapproving relative plans a trap, but the resolution is too quick and unsatisfying. “The Inimitable,” a fictional conversation with Charles Dickens, doesn’t offer much insight into the author’s history or creative process.
An uneven set of tales in which too many fall flat.