Yesterday, I reviewed Women of Darkness, in which I explained that I think this follow-up is better than the original. In her introduction, Kathryn Ptacek explains that the short story collection is comprised of dark tales, "sometimes unpleasant, always unsettling." She's right, I found all of these stories to be unsettling and I believe many of the dark images will remain burned in my memory for years to come. You can read my short biography of Kathryn Ptacek, which I wrote yesterday, here. I will follow the format I used yesterday to review the stories, writing the name and author, one line about the plot and my rating of each story.
The Co-op by Melanie Tem - Mothers in a babysitting co-op share dark secrets. Rating: 4/5
Fruits of Love by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro - A historical fiction piece about a woman who is won in a card game by a brutish man. Rating: 4/5
Sarah and the Slime Creature by Resa Nelson - A woman who was sexually abused by her stepbrother when she was young has trouble trusting men as an adult. Rating: 4/5
Just Idle Chatter by Jean Paiva - A boy eavesdrops on his strange neighbours, finding out something disturbing. Rating: 4/5
Act of Love by Kristl Volk Franklin - A young girl is disturbed by witnessing her father's abuse of her mother. Rating: 4/5
Arc Light by Lisa W. Cantrell - A welder overcomes his fear of the dark. Rating: 4/5
The Pit by Patricia Ramsey-Jones - A dog who is forced into dog fighting gets revenge on his cruel owner. Rating: 3/5
A Rainy Evening in Western Illinois by Rebecca Lyons - A man believes he witnessed a horrible car accident. Rating: 4/5
Coming Back by Ginger LaJeunesse - A mother who dies in car accident forces herself to come back to life for her son. Rating: 5/5
I Know What To Do by Yvonne Navarro - A couple moves into a new apartment to find it already occupied by a vicious cockroach that won't die. Rating: 4/5
The Drought by Lois Tilton - A group observing how elephants react to a drought, learn that dehydration makes them crazy - and dangerous. Rating: 4/5
The Nightmare's Tale by Tanith Lee - A historical fiction about revenge. Rating: 2/5
He Whistles Far and Wee by Kiel Stuart - A creepy man sells balloons to children in a tropical paradise. Rating: 4/5
Dirty Pain by Lisa Swallow - A man needs pain - from himself and others - to feel normal. Rating: 3/5
Last Echoes by Janet Lorimer - A woman who loves nursery rhymes moves to an old-fashioned town where they participate in a dark ritual from a nursery rhyme. Rating: 4/5
Daddy's Coming Home by Lynn S. Hightower - Supposedly a man's dead father has come back and he returns home to investigate. Rating: 3/5
A Touch of the Old Lilith by Nina Kiriki Hoffman - A young woman's grandmother tells her all the women in her family have some Lilith in them and will end up killing any man who becomes close to them. Rating: 3/5
Footprints in the Water by Poppy Z. Brite - A man who's twin brother is dead, asks a man who possesses special powers to bring him back to life. Rating: 2/5
I loved the story, Coming Back, it is well-written, emotional and has a very strong female main character. He Whistles Far and Wee gave me the chills while reading it alone at night; the man who sold balloons to children is very creepy. The ending of The Co-op shocked and appalled me. Usually historical fiction bores me, but Fruits of Love fascinated me and taught me something. And I Know What To Do repulsed me; I loathe cockroaches (that segment in Creepshow scarred me for life).
Although the subject matter of each story varies greatly, the quality does not. All of the stories featured in this collection are well-written, have spooky imagery, surprising twist endings and fascinating characters. If you're a fan of dark short stories, seek out this collection.