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April 9, 2021

4 Books for Horror Fans

by MK French


During the fall and into winter there are so many recommendations of horror reads but as the days get sunnier it seems to be a genre that shrinks into the shadows. So I'm going to shine a light on a few horror stories that you might have missed in the darker months of the calendar. If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read all four ebooks for free.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

The Malan Witch by Catherine Cavendish

The Malan Witch
August 2020; Silver Shamrock Publishing
978-1951043131; ebook, print (127 pages)
Robyn Crowe is staying in her sister’s summer home to deal with the loss of her husband. There are secrets in the cottage, however; centuries before, two witches were burned and their spirits were trapped in the house. One of the sisters is free now and will stop at nothing to find her sister. Robyn is the only thing standing in her way.

Catherine Cavendish writes some really creepy horror stories, whether from spirits, witchcraft, or other supernatural creatures manifesting in the real world. I was excited to read this book, and it certainly met my expectations. The illustrations included in the book adds to that creepy quality, even with the chapter taking place in the ordinary, mundane countryside. Malan is derived from the Cornish term for Devil’s righthand demons, and the witches were known as malan witches because no one remembered their last names. Having Robyn lookup local mythology is a way to make sure the reader knows the term and what’s going on while setting the stage for the future horror.

Once Robyn is caught up in the witch’s clutches, the rest of the novel proceeds rapidly. Her sister had unwittingly let one of the sisters free while renovating the cottage, and Robyn has to try to stop the evil from claiming the cottage, her niece, or her life. She has help in the form of a white witch in the village and the descendant of the white witch that imprisoned the twin Malan witches, but it’s a tense battle of magic and a race against time to get it done. Until we get to the very end, the tension doesn’t relent, like all the best horror stories.

Buy The Malan Witch at Amazon

The Gathering of Shadows by Mark N. Drake

The Gathering of Shadows
July 2020; Indie; 979-8668299287
ebook, print (211 pages)
In 1920’s England, Jack Glennison is a private detective looking into a missing persons case. On a steamer bound for the Darkisle in the Irish Sea, he has to face his own past as well as a rising darkness.

The book is written from Jack’s perspective, a manuscript intended to be left as a record of events. While we get quite the backstory dumped on us at once in the prologue, there is also the first hint of something potentially weird from the get-go: He was expelled from university after a night in the library that he doesn’t remember at all, chalk marks on the floor and his friend insensate for days before his own expulsion. This also sets the tone for the rest of the novel, in that he glosses over potentially huge things as if it wasn’t very consequential, such as “stopping a fragment of shrapnel with my left shoulder” for his injury suffered in WWI. This same dogged determination is what sends him on the missing persons case, tracking Andrew Randall when he doesn’t return to his hotel room and wife as planned.

For those who love Lovecraftian horror, we have mention of Miskatonic University in Arkham Massachusetts about a third of the way in. Suddenly the chalked markings, odd words, and weirdness make complete sense. At least, as much sense as the Old Ones could possibly make sense. The tone of the story goes from a missing persons case to one resembling the movie Clue, only with dark magic as a means of threatening others, hiding identities, and the motive to murder. Cosmic beings make a very small appearance in the novel, and there’s more of the murder mystery in the second half of the novel and the missing persons case at the first. If anything, this is more like an introduction into the world of cosmic horror, with hints that this could very well be a series. If so, it’s an interesting start and one I would definitely like to read more.


Corpsing by Kayleigh Edwards

Corpsing
July 2017; Sinister Horror Company
978-1999741839; ebook, print (150 pages)
 
This is a collection of eight horror short stories, each with a bit of a humorous twist. Our opening story, “Bitey Bachman,” outlines a failed zombie apocalypse in the locked ward of a mental hospital next door to a research facility. The narrator is one of the staff, and tends to look down on the patients and often teases his coworkers. As the story progresses, he eagerly awaits an actual zombie apocalypse from a locked room on the ward. It isn’t what he expects at all, and the irony is funny for the reader to see. “Bits and Bobs” is very short, and has macabre humor of a similar vein, with a man trying to ruin forensic training when unable to work there full time. In “Siren,” a young girl moving into a new home in the wake of her parents’ relationship dissolving. Amidst the trauma of this move and the loss of her known family is a creepy girl in the lake beside her new house. The end was nowhere close to what I thought it would be and was utterly chilling.

“Now You See Them” is a new take on the monsters under the bed, short but horrifying as the meaning truly sinks in. As someone who is scared of spiders, “Skin” was especially horrible. At first, it was just the spider bite and growing infection. Then it was Amy’s terrible using boyfriend, the isolation when she was sick, and then the twist ending that made my jaw drop. “S Day” made me laugh out loud, and the bad trip in “Barry’s Last Day” was actually kind of sad at the end. The collection closes out with “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” is an entirely different take on Christmas Eve tree decorating horror.

While there’s a strong component of the bloody and fantastic, a lot of these stories are also predicated on relationships. The people are subject to horrors when they don’t have strong and supportive relationships to fall back on.

Buy Corpsing at Amazon

Screens by Christopher Laine

Screens
November 2020; Garden Path; 978-1735699202
ebook, print (337 pages)
A manuscript appeared that details a presence feeding off humanity through screens, intent on destroying the earth. Anyone reading this manuscript has disappeared, been murdered, or disconnected for all digital communication. There is no information online about this manuscript or any of the survivors. The survivors themselves call each other the Network, and spread information about the manuscript, hoping to stop its growing horror.

This book is written as a collection of letters, warnings, and other ephemera collected. We start with the nature of the Network, and that all attempts to digitize the Manuscript have led to the person being killed. All we're told at the outset is that the very world is at stake, and we alternate between the ephemera and the concept of the Manuscript, as told by James, the narrator. The gimmick reminds me of "House of Leaves" by Mark Danielewski, a book you shouldn't read at night because it's mind-bending and horrifying on a psyche level. There are also echoes of cosmic horror as we go on, with extraplanar creatures trying to break through, using hapless humans and corrupting them to do so.

As the book progresses and James searches for information about the original author of the Manuscript, he's drawn deeper into the occult and fear of Euclidean geometry. He's drawn the notice of THEM, is part of a paradox and is part of something much bigger than himself. While he's often confused by what's happening as the story continues, the reader will begin to see parallels in the text and understand the nature of the paradox better than he does. There is so much underlying creepiness and a sense of danger more than outright bloody gore, so don't be afraid of that. Instead, be afraid of the cosmic horror aspect, the creepy things coming through the angles of the world to consume us all.

Buy Screens at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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