Fifteen tales where Halloween costumes prove to be more than what they appear, where leviathans lurk beneath the ice, where murderous impulses overtake the unsuspecting, and where human beings are the very monsters to fear.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Grey Matter Press for giving me the opportunity.
First and foremost, I was beginning to burn out from short story collections when I picked this one up. Despite enjoying those I have read over the past couple of months, I felt the pull for something that would last more than just a few pages. Thankfully, however, my first encounter with the King of Pain snapped me out of that completely. With all the bizarre and shocking twists and turns, I forgot all about my restlessness. Seriously, some of the tales included were downright weird, moreso than anything I’ve ever read. Not only that, but they were satisfying; driven to conclusions that felt pleasantly fitting. If anything, Taff excelled at exactly what he set out to do. He created memorable pieces, and showcased his ability to bring unique voices to the table.
As is the habit, I like to start with those that didn’t entirely appeal, followed by those that did. Their Hands, The Dark Level, The Night Moves, Gethsmane, In Rain, and Lincoln & Booth at the Orpheum didn’t interest me a great deal, but that’s only five out of fifteen. The numbers don’t lie in this case. Of course, different tales will resonate with different people, and that’s the wonderful thing. Let’s get into my top three:
A Winter’s Tale – Sometimes his father’s laughter would ooze through the house, soft, squishy, like mud swirling through water.
There’s no question about my adoration of this particular story. Even after I finished I couldn’t banish it from my head. It stuck with me throughout the remainder of the book, nothing else quite hitting that level of charm. Not only did it get an immediate tick because of the Lovecraftian approach, but because it told of something very real – of an absent father and neglectful mother. It was, ultimately, about family.
Just A Phone Call Away – Cynthia found, perversely, that her own disgust only heightened the arousal she was fighting.
It’s been a while since I had the pleasure of reading erotic horror. There’s always been a particular appeal; perhaps that queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. This gem was like re-discovering some long-lost, and terribly disturbing friend. When boundaries are pushed and the grisly relationship of lust and pain is so openly highlighted, I just can’t tear my eyes away. Taff did it brilliantly, instantly making me feel for Cynthia. He took the time to express the change in her emotions; from disgust to utter obsessiveness. I swiftly fell into a state of morbid fascination.
The Bitches of Madison County – He existed to capture that one moment, the place in time where a person exhibited something real and true.
It was close between this one and The Coriolis Effect (Or, Chiromancy for Beginners). Delving into the mentality of unstable individuals, it’s always been a favourite of mine. What began as seemingly harmless, yet no less disquieting, events, soon evolved into the outlandish. It also had, without a doubt, one hell of an ending.
The several remaining that made an impression: The Immolation Scene, The Bunny Suit, The Depravity of Inanimate Things, Everything Must Go, Purple Soda Hand and A Kiss from the Sun for a Pardon.
In conclusion: The first half of this collection was almost perfect for me, and the second half is where I struggled to stay connected. All in all, I enjoyed my time with such a capable storyteller. Taff certainly lived up to his title, and I hope to experience his work again.
© Red Lace 2018