M is for Monster by John Prescott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved the concept for this collection – 26 letters of the alphabet, 26 stories, each letter gets its own story and monster. Some were guessable, some were left-field, and with some I still didn’t know the relevance of the letter even after finishing the story! It doesn’t matter though, and doesn’t affect enjoyment of these well-written tales. As usual with this kind of thing I’ll pick out my very favourite stories and explain why I liked them, though I won’t give away the monster if I can help it. So, my favourites were:
B by Andrew Taylor
He noticed the fingers – twice the size of normal human fingers.”
Fast paced, starting in the middle of the action and not letting up, this was an excellent slice of action horror with a twist.
D by John Prescott
“The sky loomed crystal-clear now, save for ol’ Pale Face and the twinkling stars that floated across the vast sea of the heavens.”
John was the compiler for the compilation. This story reminds me of other works: Stephen King’s ‘The Boogeyman’; American Horror Story (series 1); Evil Dead etc. Not a bad thing, more of a homage. The writer promises something nasty then delivers. Fast, dark, sinister and unrelenting.
F by Stuart Neild
“The terrible stench woke him. They were inside the caravan, which was as filthy inside as it was out.”
Stories within stories, nasty new monsters to fear, and a twist that changes what went before.
G by Geoff Nelder
“The beetle had survived and come back to keep him company. It carried a small, purple berry in its horns.”
A surprising viewpoint to this story of sympathy. The tale has more elements of satire, pathos and gory comedy than conventional horror, but it is well-written and thoughtful, as is usual with Geoff’s work.
H by Zack Black
“The Cannon Hill dungeon plunged into dank, gloomy silence as the last of the candles snuffed out.”
I can never resist a short-timespan story with an anti-hero just wanting to go home (hence using the trope in Turner).
I by Jonathan Green
“When the birch comes – the thorny twigs like claws against her back, tearing at the sparse skin there – she bites her lip again as moans escape her. But is it pain or pleasure?”
Nasty eroticism mixed with brutal horror and a Welsh twist.
K by Bec Zugor
“A steady slap, slap, slap, coming from the kitchen. The way Jill covered her mouth with her hands, her eyes wide, told him she knew what that noise was, too.”
An interesting and unexpected monster that flavours horror with sympathy; a story mixing corruption with love and exploring perverted dedication. Gruesome details and a believable character arc that left me wanting to know more, since this tale embraces other stories in passing.
L by A.J. French
“A knobby line of bones protruded from the back of her neck. … She smelled, too – a faint odor like rotten vegetables.”
Excellent pulp horror, throwing a mix of tropes into the bag and seeing what crawls out. It manages to keep you guessing throughout the story yet delivers what the horror reader needs.
M by Jeffrey Sorensen
“The three of them bolted across the yard and back into the cabin. Todd slammed the door and held it there.”
Elements of mystery, paranoia and survival come together in this tense cabin fever escapade.
N by Simon Kurt Unsworth
“The liquid breathing steam and swimming with tiny golden globules of fat, the pale strands twisting around the lumps of vegetables and meat that swam below the fat.”
My favourite story because of its controlled pace, unnerving details, urban legend mythology and the way it keeps the reader guessing whilst on the edge of their seat. Almost believable!
O by Jonathan Pinnock
“But his hand still hurts. He holds the back of it up to his face and sees two tiny red puncture marks.”
Short and sweet, well plotted and with all the details in the right place to lead up to the nasty ending.
P by Ian Woodhead
“She wanted a hot soak to wash off the feeling of his slate-gray eyes peeling off her clothing.”
An excellent and horrible story of growing tension before the full force of nasty imagination is allowed to take over and controlled madness reigns. I loved it.
R by Rakie Keig
“I was held prisoner in my bed by the weakness of my body, and I couldn’t even sit up enough to see the outside world.”
The horror is in the after-thought, where I was filled with images of haunted suburbs, strange areas: Crouch End crossed with Stawl Island. An unreliable narrator takes us there.
T by Magen Toole
“Soft features and high cheekbones glimmered under her large eyes – hollow beneath a pool of shadow, empty like the sockets of a skull.”
A slow-burn mystery character piece with an unexpected surprise. Very evocative of the small details in a sexual encounter that stay in your memory forever.
X by John Palisano
“To my right lay a pulsing mound of dark gray gristle on the carpet.”
An unexpected turn of events and believable voice make this a compelling read where you want to ask: what happens next?
Y by Dean Drinkel
“He put his hand to his mouth, licked his fingertips. The taste was familiar. Blood.”
An ominous confusion through untrustworthy eyes, with elements of Clive Barker’s version of Hell. This warrants thought.
And there we have it. An enjoyable horror collection that does what you’d hope it does and gives you a variety of dark and nasty treats to ponder.
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