Author Archives: Andie Percival

Grimm and Grimmer: Volume One

As a little girl I was never really interested in fairy tales, I couldn’t connect with the stereotypical and naive characters and the whole ‘learning a lesson’ theme that ran through them bothered me. However this anthology has made me believe again, it gave me stories that included a big bad wolf zombie, an incredibly devious and violent Gretel and a prisoned child beast. There was no lesson to learn and no moral hi ground to take, it was pure twisted entertainment.

Grim and Grimmer is a really enjoyable read of warped tales; the writers are very clever by incorporating the dark side of such traditional stories whilst throwing in the perfect amount of humour too. This collection made me giggle, sometimes for the wrong reasons!

This is the second anthology from Fringeworks and the only negative comment I have to make is that it just wasn’t long enough. The anthology contained only six short stories, but I enjoyed them all so I suppose it’s better to have quality rather than quantity. My personal favourite contribution to the anthology was ‘Pork’ Hammy and Chop’ written by William Meikle, which is a brilliant satirical horror twist on the traditional Three Little Pigs.

I’m really looking forward to Volume Two of which I believe is going to be based on the stories of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Snow White. I will be grabbing myself a copy of that for sure.

Oh, and if you’re planning on buying this, don’t read the stories to your children, it will scar their tiny minds forever.

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The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 23 (Edited by Stephen Jones)

I can’t tell you how delighted I was when this dropped on my doorstep. It’s the first ‘Mammoth’ book I have ever read and I was not disappointed. I’m waiting anxiously for the release of book number 24 this year.

There are 14 stories in total, including short stories, flash fiction pieces and novellas.  There are pieces written by well known horror writers and also some less known newcomers and sets out to showcase the best in contemporary horror. I have read  ‘themed’ horror anthologies in the past but this isn’t as restrictive and I found the variation in theme and length kept me interested and eager to continue to the next delight!

I won’t go into detail on every single story as I find those type of reviews tedious but I will highlight three of my favourites.

The first one was ‘The Photographers Tale’ written by Daniel Mills. The short story takes you back to 1892 and has a twist on the subject of spirit photography (a subject I am deeply fascinated by). Lowell is a professional photographer who is sent a camera from his estranged apprentice. The camera of course isn’t as it first appears and when Lowell looks through the lens he sees his subjects as they would look like in old age but also can see their dark secrets. This story had me gripped from the very first sentence.  Mills writes in a clear, precise and atmospheric way, there isn’t anything poncy or fussy about his work and I have become a big fan.

The second I thoroughly enjoyed was ‘The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer’ by John Ajvide Lindqvist. This is Lindqvist’s first published short story specifically written for the English-Language market. Lindqvist states that this was the one story he has written that scared him and kept him in a state of mild horror until the end. I share this experience with him as the story is just so beautifully dark and eerie.  The widowed protagonist moves into a new house with his young son, a piano is the only possession he has left that belonged to his wife and he insists that his son learns to play. However,  he soon begins to hear strange music coming from the piano (assumed to be played by his son) and also hears his son talking to some unknown entities. The realisation that a murderer had previously lived in the house complicates matters even further. Lindqvist’s writing is intelligent, the reader is left wondering if there really is a supernatural element to the story or whether it is simply about a man in deep grief and despair.

Finally a particular favourite of mine was ‘Smithers and the Ghosts of the Thar’ by Robert Silverberg. Written in first person the narrator exposes secrets of what happened to Smithers in 1858 whilst in India. It’s a good old fashioned ghost story and enjoyable to read, making you feel like you are deep in conversation with the narrator. Silverberg is a well established novelist and short story writer although usually known for his work in the science fiction and fantasy genre. I applaud his fantastic contribution to the world of horror.

Not only is this book an enjoyable read it’s also informative and is a Bible for any horror buff, the introduction given by the editor Stephen Jones was absolutely fantastic, he gives an overview of the year in horror, not just in the literary world but including film, TV and radio. There is also a superb necrology and a long list of contact details for writers and fans of the genre.

Overall a wonderful anthology full of dark, ghostly and intelligent work.

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Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill

Apartment 16 is a dark and disturbing tale of Barrington House, a luxurious apartment building in London which seems to have a strong hold on the people who live there. There are two main narrative viewpoints which are delivered cleverly generating the feeling of tension which eventually climaxes perfectly.

Apryl, one of the main characters,  has come over from America who inherited an apartment from her great aunt Lillian, she’s a likeable character who you support all the way through in her quest to find out what’s really going on in Barrington House. Seth,  is a night porter and artist who is also drawn into the darkness and intrigue of Apartment 16, after investigating strange noises coming from the apartment, he enters it and his life changes forever.

Often novels within the supernatural genre are predictable, this certainly wasn’t,  I remember raising my eyebrows in surprise a number of times! The descriptions and imagery are the best I have read in a long time, it’s disturbing, grotesque and dark. I enjoyed every page.

Nevill’s writing style can take some getting used to, it’s not an easy book to put down and pick up again, you have to give it your full attention which it so rightly deserves. It is an intelligent, unique and interesting story, one that certainly takes a warped mind to conjure up!

Apartment 16 is a must read for any horror fan out there, it’s weird, warped and wonderful. Thank you for bringing it into the world Mr Nevill!

4/5

 

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Dangerous Waters by Anne Allen

‘Mystery, loss and love on the Island of Guernsey’

The protagonist Jeanne Le Page returns to the Island of Guernsey following the death of her Grandmother, this is a reluctant trip due to a personal tragedy that occurred fifteen years previous, however she is also escaping an unhappy life in England. The stay in Guernsey brings her flashbacks and nightmares of the tragedy but she also experiences new mystery’s and tragedy’s during her stay. Jeanne has inherited her Grandmothers cottage, which in itself brings more mystery and drama.

Jeanne’s initial plan to sell the cottage and return to England is disturbed by the influence of friends, romantic interests and the discovery and resolution of many mystery’s, which all attract her to stay.

This is a really atmospheric and descriptive piece of writing,  I was transformed to the Island of Guernsey and could imagine every detail without much effort. As well as being a great fictional story I have learnt more about the Island, it’s fascinating history and culture. It is an obviously well researched novel and with the touch of history relating to the German Occupation, it really brought the story to life.

This is a great mystery novel, with plenty of intriguing sub-plots and suspense which kept me reading even when it was time to go to bed! I found myself guessing correctly what was happening but this didn’t discourage me from enjoying the book because the suspense was enough to keep going to check I was right.

This is an easy, enjoyable and intriguing read. Great for the Summer, sat in the sun and reading over a glass of wine! Highly recommended.

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The People Next Door by Christopher Ransom

“You will never guess their secret, you will never forget the twist”  

This statement on the front of the book, plus the great artistry grabbed me straight away, I love to be scared and it sounded so very intriguing. For this reason only I persevered through the confusing plot which failed to grab me.

The story is based around the ‘Nash family’, a dysfunctional lot all with their own individual complicated problems. These sub-plots, I assume, were added to create more depth but the swapping of narrative throughout the chapters confused the hell of out me.

The Nash family become intrigued by a strange new family who have just moved in next door called ‘The Renders’, I enjoyed learning about these new characters more so than the protagonists, their strange ways and suggestive dialogue made me stop reading for a second, sit back and try to figure out what was going on.

The plot itself is a great idea but it’s delivery let it down, I guessed half way through what was going on but hoped I was wrong so I could have experienced the ‘big twist’.

On a plus side, Ransom writes very descriptively, some of the gory scenes were very detailed and he certainly didn’t hold back, fans of gore type horror may enjoy this book.

I am a sucker for a suspense story but this had just too much, there were so many different things going it became over complicated.

This was a strange read for me, my interest and praise for the book fluctuated, and the ending was a big let down. There were some good chilling scenes but you have to dig your way through to get them, I would describe it as an ‘OK’ book but certainly not a must read.

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The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill

As a new fan of Susan Hill I just couldn’t wait to get my teeth into this novella. I shouldn’t really compare it to ‘The Women in Black’ but it just doesn’t have the same grip and eeriness about it.

The story is narrated by Theo, an old Cambridge lecturer who is telling a former student; Oliver about a Venetian party painting that hangs upon his wall.  As you have probably guessed it is no ordinary painting, it appears just as ordinary as any other oil painting but  it is full of evil, hatred and revenge.

The sub plots within the story created more depth but sometimes made it a little disjointed for me and I found it hard to follow. An interesting story but I wouldn’t recommend if you are a ‘ghost story connoisseur’ as it just doesn’t have that bite.

However, despite my disappointment I have to give well deserved credit for Hill’s descriptive and atmospheric writing skills, there wasn’t much left to the imagination when I was reading, she creates a scene just perfectly.

 

 

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