Stephen King, Lisa Morton, Nell Quinn-Gibney, Norman Prentiss, Joyce Carol Oates, and Tim Curran plunge readers into the dark side in this deeply unsettling short-story collection curated by legendary horror editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.
THE OLD DUDE’S TICKER by Stephen King
Richard Drogan has been spooked ever since he came back from Nam, but he’s no head case, dig? He just knows the old dude needs to die.
THE RICH ARE DIFFERENT by Lisa Morton
Even though she made her name revealing the private lives of the rich and famous, Sara Peck has no idea how deep their secrets really go . . . or the price they’ll pay to get what they desire.
THE MANICURE by Nell Quinn-Gibney
A trip to the nail salon is supposed to be relaxing. But as the demons of the past creep closer with every clip, even the most serene day of pampering can become a nightmare.
THE COMFORTING VOICE by Norman Prentiss
It’s a little strange how baby Lydia can only be soothed by her grandfather’s unnatural voice, ravaged by throat cancer. The weirdest part? What he’s saying is more disturbing than how he says it.
THE SITUATIONS by Joyce Carol Oates
There are certain lessons children must learn, rules they must follow, scars they must bear. No lesson is more important than this: Never question Daddy. Or else.
THE CORPSE KING by Tim Curran
Grave robbers Kierney and Clow keep one step ahead of the law as they ply their ghoulish trade, but there’s no outrunning a far more frightening enemy that hungers for the dead.
For me, the absolute stars of this compilation are "The Rich Are Different" by Lisa Morton in which a writer accepts an invitation to a birthday party from a very wealthy and very different sort of fan.
"The Comforting Voice" by Norman Prentiss offers no comfort at all. In fact it set my teeth on edge and made my skin crawl, in the most delightful ways. Josh and Cheryl are new parents, which under the best of circumstances would be an uncomfortable time to take in a sickly relative. When the new baby has constant fits of inconsolable crying, and the relative is your estranged and abusive father-in-law, it's about as comforting as nails on a chalkboard. This tale had my anxiety levels through the roof and I loved it. These two stories alone are worth more than the cost of admission. 5 stars to both.
"The Corpse King" by Tim Curran is the longest story in this collection. It's a creepy tale of best buddies and grave robbers Kierney and Clow who find that not everything under the ground is lifeless. 4 stars
"The Manicure" by Nell Quinn-Gibney Has me eyeing my nail scissors distrustfully while I consider buying one of those as seen on tv doodads that files them instead. Another solid 4 stars.
"The Situations" by Joyce Carol Oates is one I have read previously in another collection and though I like much of her work this one just didn't quite do it for me then or now. 3 stars
"The Old Dude's Ticker" by Stephen King is a 1970s version of the Tell Tale Heart by Poe. Sometimes the classics are best left alone. It was ok, but not one of King's best efforts. 3 stars.
All in all this is a good collection of sinister stories that are certain to jangle your nerves.
I received an advance copy for review