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Book Review: The Black Book of Horror

This compendium of chills aims to satisfy the twisted desires of those who like their horror in short, scary bursts. Harking back to the glory years for short horror stories, when the Pan Books proved demand was high for both the genre and the format, the Black Books of Horror are now up to number seven in the series – though having never read one before, it made sense to start where all good stories start – at the beginning. Seeing the book for the first time gave me a pleasant tingle of anticipation, the cover art being creepily reminiscent of the iconic Pan artwork – and refreshingly free of all the usual logos and credits. And so, safe in the knowledge that if a story wasn’t to my liking, there would be another along in a minute, I began my journey. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Crows – Unpleasant man inherits spooky old family house. Comeuppance is not long in arriving.

Regina vs. Zoskia – Lawyer despatched to asylum where the inmates practise sleep deprivation and have declared the outside world insane.

The Older Man – A builder looks through the windows of a house and gets a nasty shock.

Power – A man falls in with the wrong crowd in Poland.

The Sound of Muzak – Imaginative Lovecraftian story about an alien plague spread by technology.

Shaped Like a Snake – Pleasant echoes of M R James in this very short story about an academic’s hotel stay.

Only In Your Dreams – When a child tells you that ‘the Jelly Man’ is coming to your house, you know you’re in trouble.

The Wolf at Jessie’s Door – A man’s obsession with an ex-girlfriend pushes him to the edge of sanity.

Size Matters – A warning to the curious about cosmetic surgery.

Spare Rib: A Romance – Love knows no boundaries – even death.

Family Fishing – Grandad’s fishing trip isn’t the sort you’d want to send your grandkids on.

Subtle Invasion – A fresh new twist on the theme of alien invasion.

Lock-in – A late drink at the pub is usually a good thing – not in this case.

Last Christmas – Not a place you’d fancy spending your next festive season.

Shalt Thou Know My Name? – An M R Jamesian tale of witchcraft.

To Summon a Flesh Eating Demon – Academia, grimoires and the black arts. What else do you need?

To go into any more detail would risk spoiling the surprise. And it was a pleasant surprise to find the short horror story in such robust health. The tales are well-crafted and original, with something for every occult taste. I’d recommend this series for anyone who likes their sleep punctuated by nightmares.

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