Book Review: ‘The Malan Witch’ by Catherine Cavendish

‘The Malan Witch’ is a haunting story of old magic, retribution and superstition, filled with tension and suspense.

The writing is powerful, full of symbolism and dark imagery that captures the imagination and takes hold of the pit of the reader’s stomach.The tone becomes darker and increasingly urgent as the story unfolds.

This is a gripping read and an absolute page-turner, suitable for Young Adult and older audiences.

Book Review: ‘Autumncrow’ by Cameron Chaney

‘Autumncrow’ is a collection of stories set in the spookiest town in America, telling of its past and some of its quite varied and interesting residents. 

The town of Autumncrow resembles any other small town in many ways, and the people who live there are completely normal people — except, perhaps, for the fact that they acknowledge their monsters and accept their fears more openly than most of us are willing to do. 

The stories are loosely interwoven, ranging from the deeply unsettling to the macabre and horrifying. Each tale is a well-written narrative characterized by a dark undercurrent that creates shadows and nuances that become bigger and bolder at night. Some of the imagery is regular Halloween fare, while other elements are more sinister. 

‘Autumncrow’ is a most enjoyable work of macabre storytelling, suitable for young adults and older readers.  

Book Review: ‘The Haunting of Rookward House’ by Darcy Coates

This is a suspenseful tale full of foreboding and intense dread, skilfully crafted to build slowly and relentlessly. It is a story of reality vs perception, causing the reader to continually question their own assumptions. 

The story is really well written. Conversations and thoughts allow the reader into the main character’s mind, while his reactions allow them to share his genuine fear and doubt. The imagery is highly sensory, often macabre, with some great Gothic elements combined with the contemporary. Coates’ writing is powerful enough to prompt genuine physical responses in the reader, yet subtle enough to achieve the slow creep of fear that characterises the book. 

This is an excellent psychological horror story, perfect for Halloween or any other day of the year.

Book Review: ‘All The Children On The Porch’ by Dona Fox

‘All The Children On The Porch’ is a mysterious and creepy dark read about secrets, lies and the ghosts of Halloweens past.

The story is beautifully constructed and suspenseful, achieving a sense of foreboding that builds slowly and steadily as the story progresses. Fox’s imagery evokes flashes of memory and glimpses of the macabre truth, keeping the reader guessing right to the end. 

This is an excellent short story for Halloween reading.

Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Curse’ by Wilkie Martin

The sequel to Inspector Hobbes and the Blood, this is the second book in Wilkie Martin’s Unhuman urban fantasy mystery series.

‘Inspector Hobbes and the Curse’ delivers an intriguing and unpredictable mystery story featuring the hapless Andy and the unflappable Inspector Hobbes as they investigate the circumstances of a wild animal killing a local farmer’s sheep. 

Of course, nothing is as straightforward as it might otherwise be, so the story develops into a much more complicated and unexpectedly bizarre case than either Hobbes or Andy are expecting. 

Martin’s writing is witty and easy to read, characterised by a lighthearted tone that is enriched by word play and “dad-joke humour”, and balanced by macabre scenes and some really lovely poignant moments. The story is very engaging, and carries the reader along at a very comfortable pace.

This quirky and fun read provides a great escape for the duration of the book, and the series is proving to be most enjoyable. 

Book Review: ‘The Quarantine Fence’ by Roma Gray

This is a short, macabre story that unsettles rather than horrifies the reader. It raises questions about the values of society as a whole and of different groups of people within it.

The story is quite well written and developed, building tension as the narrative progresses. It is an enjoyable enough read, although one which most readers will not really find scary.

Overall, it’s a decent story, with some good macabre moments.

Book Review: ‘The Artist’ by P.J. Blakey-Novis

What would you do if you held power that nobody else knew about? Most people would like to think they would use it for good, but this story explored just how easy it would be to manipulate things to suit our own interests.
The main character is likeable enough at the outset, and seems to have good intentions. The other characters in the story are a realistic cross-section of society: his family, classmates and teachers. 

The narrative is interesting and quite relatable, albeit less easy to identify with as it gets darker. The twist before the ending is both confronting and horrific, but the conclusion escalates that even further. 

This is a well-crafted story that lures the reader in and then ambushes them with darkness.

Given that it is easily read in less than half an hour, it makes perfect reading for busy people looking for excellent dark fiction short reads.

Book Review: ‘Roger’s Revelation: : An Emma: Ancestor’s Tales Vignette ‘ by Paula Shablo

This is a quite a wistful and quirky read on one hand, yet quite dark and confronting on the other.

A deep sense of irony pervades the story and  highlights the tragedy of the backstory which Roger reveals to Emma when she meets him at their old school. It is certainly thought-provoking about what comes after death and the likelihood that the spirit world could exist right alongside, or even intersect with, our own.

The raw reality of suicide and the jolting power of grief and survivor’s guilt are treated with sensitivity and empathy, and the story cleverly positions the reader to understand the perspectives of both Roger and Emma, and other people known to them both, as they share their experiences. 

This story may be personally challenging to those who have lost friends or loved ones to suicide, but it may also offer some reassurance and objectivity through the different perspectives of the characters.

It is a testament to the skill of the author that the story is very well balanced and poignant, given its serious and sombre themes. 

Book Review: ‘Morrighan’ by Stacey Jaine Mackintosh

This is an interesting Arthurian dark fantasy tale that explores the relationship between Arthur and Morgan. Told from Morgan’s point of view, the reader is treated to a very different perception of Arthur than that told by the more popular legends. 

The opening paragraph is stunning, and most of the writing is quite good, so the prescence of some fairly basic errors was disappointing.  A careful proofreading and edit would make a significant difference to the finished quality of the story. 

Overall, the story is quite enjoyable.

Book Review: ‘The Gravedigger’s Tales’ by Kaye St Clair

This is a collection of poems and short stories In the style of folk tales and fables, with darker themes and motifs that make them ideally suited for October reading. 

The stories are quite well-written, although not particularly complex or deep. Each set of related stories is introduced by a poem that introduces the key idea that connects the poem and subsequent stories to each other. 

This book was an entertaining enough read to be a pleasant diversion at the end of a busy day, but would probably not satisfy one’s desire for a deeper, more compelling story or a truly horrifying read.