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review 2015-12-20 19:40
A Strangers Grave by Craig Saunders
A Stranger's Grave - Craig Saunders

I've said before that Craig Saunders writing style fits succinctly with my inner core and A Strangers Grave is definitely one of my favourites.

 

Elton Burlock is out of prison after a long 26 year stretch for murder, longer than it should have been but that's something at the heart of his story, along with the reason he went to jail. You would think a murderer an evil man but Elton is far from that, he's an old man now just surviving.

 

The only job Elton can get is the keeper of an old graveyard in a small Norfolk market town, the first headstones were laid in 1756 but something much older came in 2007. A trio of angels carved in basalt and polished to a black sheen, the evil those angels bought was older than anything.

 

And when the first murder occurs, who is the obvious suspect?

 

'But he screamed, then, because as he came she came, the old one, and she drove splinters into his spine and tore out handfuls of his lungs until he could scream no more, snapped his neck, broke his skull, tore into his brain, her worm-ridden tongue licking and licking and eating his eyeballs from behind.'

 

So there's death in the graveyard, the odd ghost with evil intent, still-born children buried in a strangers grave, a grave that can never be too deep and some laughs around two fat coppers.

 

'They both set to running as fast as two fat coppers can in a dark cemetery if they don't want a broken neck or a coronary, because of intuition, but also because both policeman knew that whatever happened next, neither one wanted to get to the screamer alone.'

 

From reading Craig Saunders work you can tell he doesn't waste much time on masses of research, the writing flows effortlessly from darkness to humour in the blink of an eye and I've got visions of him chuckling away in his legendary shed, maybe it's got a little bar and pool table for relaxing. But at the end of the day I really enjoyed A Strangers Grave, the protagonist carries enough baggage to make for an arresting character coupled with a disturbingly creepy setting and a quite wicked story. Craig Saunders does it again.

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review 2015-12-15 18:57
Beholder by Graham Masterton
Beholder - Graham Masterton

Beholder by Graham Masterton is my second short story from the openbooks.com website that is available to copy, share, do whatever you want with it and if you feel it's worth some money, then pay something with the links provided.

 

Beholder has a bit of a modern day fairy tale vibe going on with young Fiona who never leaves the house, her mother says she's too beautiful and would come to harm. This is a house with no mirrors and beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, who is the beholder? Why, anyone who looks at you.

 

This is a simple yet truly horrific short story, I read the second half with a wince permanently etched on my face. To say anything else would give things away but you need to read this and completely unprepared is the best way. Masterfully told by a legend of horror, brilliant stuff.

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review 2015-12-14 19:39
Rain by Craig Saunders
Rain - Craig Saunders

I've been on a bit of a Craig Saunders splurge recently starting with The Estate, on to Rain and the final one being A Strangers Grave. And they just get better, dark fiction with a mixture of fascinating characters, occasionally funny moments, gripping plots but most of all just bloody good reads.

 

Rain starts with John March and his not too busy bookshop, in fact there's only one regular customer and he comes in attempting to sell a few books. Mr Hills last visit finished with him saying something a little odd John thinks briefly but what comes later is way past odd. Mr Hill dies that night and John is the beneficiary of two amazing things, firstly a will worth 5 million pounds.

 

And secondly a strange wooden box containing a lock of hair, a finger bone and a tooth in a jar of water. A simple message says. 'Blood and bone and hair and tooth'.

 

Then a phone call.

 

'You have something of mine. Give it back and I will let her live.'

 

Then comes the Rain.

 

Followed by screaming, sirens, and death, lots of it.

 

Smiley, Mandy and the rest of the gang aren't up to much, smoking some weed, you know the score. Until they're caught by a policeman, not your average copper, this one needs a job done and there's something not altogether right about this guy.

 

'Something in the man's eyes. Something cold. His eyes were black. Weird. Full-on black, like they'd been painted in by a kid. The others didn't look around. They sat silent, defeated.
Smiley looked into the policeman's eyes.
He wished he hadn't, but by then, he couldn't look away'.

 

The rain is alive, it has murderous intent and it’s fucking scary stuff. There's a lot going on to keep the interest alive, I have to say it's brilliantly imaginative and the evil contained within the rain combined with its urgent needs left me slightly staggered and more than impressed with Craig Saunders once more.

 

John March, his wife and her carers, Smiley and Mandy will face off against the unthinkable. And you can't help but run the gauntlet with them, every rain soaked step. This author has written some incredibly dark and gripping fiction, and it's a complete joy to slowly work through his back catalogue.

 

Recommended, no, more than Recommended and well worth dipping your toes into this murky water.

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review 2015-11-29 20:09
Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2 by John Connolly
Night Music: Nocturnes Volume Two - John Connolly

Night Music is the second in John Connolly’s Nocturnes series of dark and chilling short fiction. Contained within are 12 stories, two multiple award winning novellas and a final section, I Live Here where the author talks of his fictional and supernatural influences.

 

My favourite story, the one that nudged past the others, as Mr Connolly does set the bar pretty high, had to be The Fractured Atlas - Five Fragments. Which is a novella comprising of 5 loosely linked stories concerning a book of power. Of the five the one I enjoyed most was The Wanderer in Unknown Realms where Mr Sorter is hired by a lawyer to investigate the disappearance of his client Lionel Spalding. Spalding had been buying books of the occult, spending large sums of money and the book he sought was The Atlas of Unknown Realms a book of maps, alleged realms beyond our own. The dark atmosphere and slow building tension are perfect, deep and edgy it felt like a much longer piece, which for me is the sign of an excellent short story.

 

The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository is an award winning story where famous characters of fiction come to live when their authors die, discreetly hidden in a small town in the countryside.  So when newly arrived Mr Berger sees a woman throw herself into the path of a train, the resulting lack of body and the fact that she mimicked and even looked as Anna Karenina would have looked has him thinking. This sees Mr Berger embark on an obsession with the incident which brings him to our Private Lending Library. A second story Holmes on the Range is also based around the lending library and unexpected events when Arthur Conan Doyle decides to kill off Sherlock and Dr Watson. The idea and premise of the library is liberating and kind of like a heaven for your favourite characters, wonderfully imaginative.

 

Other stories worth a mention are Razorshins where a creature of nightmare haunts Maine in the prohibition era and sad little tale A Haunting about love and heart breaking loss.

 

Night Music is an absolutely top notch collection of dark supernatural tales guaranteed to scupper your feelings of calm, from an author right at the top of my list of favourites. I enjoyed reading John Connolly’s thoughts and reminisces as much as the stories themselves and Nocturnes volume 2 comes highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2015-11-22 19:21
Snowblind 2: The Killing Grounds by Michael McBride
Snowblind II: The Killing Grounds - Michael McBride

Michael McBride takes us back to the Rockies and once more we're blind in the snow, we're in the killing grounds, the panic is mounting and the tensiometer is pinging like a metal detector in a shipping container.

 

Seven years ago John Avery's girlfriend went on a skiing trip with friends, none of them were ever seen again and he's searched for them, relentlessly, he was even a suspect.

 

Sheriff Wayne Dayton once shot a man who staggered into a diner carrying a severed head, a tortuous ending to a harrowing journey that is not easily forgotten. A conservation biologist searching for a missing bighorn sheep finds a video camera hidden in a tree and evidence of the missing party is finally discovered.

 

'A scream from the television cut him off. It was loud and clear and filled with so much raw terror that the hackles rose along his shoulders and neck.'

 

Sheriff Dayton investigates, resulting in a group setting out to ascertain exactly what happened all those years ago. Darkness and a freak blizzard put them in the killing grounds of a predator even Arnie would struggle to get away from.

 

There's a cabin hidden in the snow and the trees, on a wall inside is scrawled the names of those unfortunate enough to realise that there's definitely no hiding place, not here. And a warning 'They come at night'.

 

Snowblind 2: The Killing Grounds is another exemplary suspense filled horror from McB, in a perfect setting for terror, the pace and trepidation rise exponentially until it's just unbearable. Will there be any survivors in the most extreme of conditions and if there are, can the U.S. law department take them out (kill them that is, not for lunch). Well worth finding out and I do recommend the two Snowblind novellas, heavy on terror, light on humour and there’s a good deal of pronounced nail-biting and heart pounding tension going down. Just what you need.

 

 

 

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