A genre-bending collection of horror-fantasy short stories set in London, centering on a red phone booth, gateway to the netherworld.
Suffering from insomnia due to her recently ended love affair, Amber sets off on a midnight stroll through London, imagining that her entire body is glowing. She returns to her apartment to find a new boyfriend who can’t comprehend why she doesn’t know him. What initially seems to be a loosely connected assortment of short stories is actually a short story cycle or composite novel. As the anthology progresses, characters and plotlines interweave. The introduction of the Anglesey Deer, an amulet carved out of one of the trees from the Roman massacre of Druids in Anglesey in A.D. 60, creates another unifying storyline. American professor Kelly David travels to England at the behest of Horace Vandenbussche, thinking her tenure will be guaranteed once she obtains this priceless artifact. Instead, she witnesses first his shape-shifting and then his murder. Her quest for the amulet may lead to her own demise, as well as that of several other characters. Particularly heart-rending are Francesca Burgon’s stories (“Phone Boxes Taste Bad” and “When the Phone Rings”), featuring young Margaret and her perhaps mentally ill, perhaps extremely focused mother, who totes around bags of evidence and makes phone calls to share her findings. The compelling Gloria Vandenbussche, despite her despair at being her father’s gofer, is transcendent in the stories in which she appears, particularly Tamsyn Kennedy’s “A Brief Transaction,” which neatly blends urban fantasy with chick lit. Occasionally disjointed due to the abundance of plotlines, characters and settings, the collection comprises 58 short stories by 29 different authors. Nonetheless, the anthology’s style works overall, a testament to skillful editing. A few of the storylines remain unresolved, leaving the door open for the promised Book 2. The quintessentially cheerful symbol of England, the red phone box, doesn’t hint at the dark materials contained here.
This mix of horror, noir and urban fantasy plays with the boundaries of literary genre fiction.