Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars
Whether we like it or not, violence has always been a part of our society; we as humans can’t help but resort to it. The reasoning behind why can be incredibly varied: to save your family, to simply steal money, an act of love, or bitter burning of revenge. There’s probably countless other reasons as to what could possibly motivate us to turn towards our more unpredictable and darker side, but this is a collection of short stories that call that notion into question in an interesting array.
While it mostly stays within the mystery/thriller genre, there are some additions of stories of war and even the supernatural/paranormal and horror genres in order to keep the mix more lively and interesting. Theres also a mix of characters that many others wouldn’t see anything they’d possibly have in common except for, obviously, them giving into their brutal and maniacal urges to hurt, to maim, to kill, and to get away with it unscathed.
I will say it quite a bit in this review, but I don’t normally turn towards short stories or compilations of them, and I will get into that later on, but when someone reaches out to ask you to look through it and give an honest review, how can you say no? Crime stories are fun for their lack of predictability, their edge, and especially when there might be an interesting social commentary to linger in your head and overtake your thoughts after you’ve closed the pages. It does, however, leave a lack of character development and usually resorts to using cliché characters in general. They’re not bad stories, and it’s obvious that the authors that contributed to this work all know their craft on a highly experienced level.
I was not familiar with any of the works of any of the authors included in this anthology, but I wanted to switch it up and keep it that way: I didn’t do any prerequisite research on the book itself or any of the writers, and I stayed off Goodreads to see what others wrote; the only thing I did was adding the title to my “To Read” shelf. Sometimes, it’s fun to do that sort of thing where you don’t rely so much on other’s ratings and decide to give it a shot in the dark. I admit, I do that a whole lot now, but with how many titles are out there, how can you not? I’ve got to get picky.
Anyways back to the actual review…
What It’s About:
It’s hard to do this section based off the fact that it’s a collection of short stories. That, plus the fact I don’t want to give too much away, all I can say is they’re all violent stories combined together for a crime/horror themed collection. The more noteworthy stories, at least in my honest opinion, to include are the following in no particular:
- Blood Brothers: by Richard Chizmar
- Guest Services: A Quarry Story: by Max Allan Collins
- Santa at the Café: by Joe Lansdale
- Scab: by Wrath James White
- The Sweetest Ass in the Ozark: by Andy Rausch
- Waste Management: by Chris Roy
What I Liked:
- The Variety! There are quite a lot of different style of stories to be told that are all included; I’d say that there’s got to be something that just about anyone could find within that they’d really enjoy! My personal favorites among the many short stories was a story about a 5-person domino-effect crime story by Joe R. Lansdale involving a guy dressed up as Santa Clause, and an African-American man who considers himself a human scab by Wrath James White. Personally, it reminded me a bit of Jordan Peele’s horror flicks, Get Out and Us: African American-centered horror, and with a slight social commentary aspect to add on top.
- The Dark Humor! Along with all the murder and thrills as sharp as a knife, there is some humor alongside to (maybe) soften the blow. A lot of it is considered pretty dark humor, which isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain person to not only get some of it, but to also enjoy it.
- The Character Studies! This kind of goes with the variety factor I mentioned above, but I felt like there’s a bit of a question of character and their moral compass that plays with you too as you read the stories. You want to think your an upstanding member of society, not wanting to weave away from what the social norm is and that criminal activity is pretty black and white. Some characters are family men, but others are mobsters, criminals or Police Officers. An example where it’s questioned is actually the very first story: Blood Brothers by Richard Chizmar. Without giving up too much information, it presents the timeless questions like: How far are you willing to go to protect your family? What are you willing to sacrifice? It even brings up a good question of if killing for the best of everyone you love is really all that much of a crime?
What I Didn’t Like:
- It Was Hard to Connect to the Stories…It’s hard to really get into a collection of short stories, because as soon as you feel like you really connect with the story or maybe even the characters; it’s over before you know it, shut off abruptly. I guess you could say I prefer one long story where you can develop a deeper connection with the characters and grow along with them within the story as they develop. That’s very difficult or near impossible to do with stories like these.
- A Hierarchy of Interest…Some stories are just a whole lot better than others, plain and simple, straight to the point (no pun intended). I wouldn’t say some are awfully written though; I’d say it’s more that I just didn’t connect to them. Some were also pretty predictable compared to others, which probably didn’t help. I would say out of the 28 stories included, only a small select few really grabbed my attention, which is a major bummer.
A fun, diverse set of crime/horror-genre short stories that are perfect for those who like that sort of thing! they’re gritty, their humorous, and they’re not something I normally go for when it comes to picking out something to read, but I still had some fun nonetheless. I find it difficult to get into a collection of short stories because of the disconnect with getting into the story and its characters, but maybe its something fun to read on your kindle or nook device when trying to kill time before a doctor’s appointment or on your lunch break at work!
I also would like to add that I received a free version of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Thanks For Reading!
— Nick Goodsell