Ghosts, werewolves, and things hidden in the dark lurk in this collection of horror stories.
Ebenezer doesn’t shy away from genre conventions, like an old-fashioned ghost story. In “The Permanent Clerk,” Martin’s new white-collar gig in New York City comes with an ever lingering apparition. Martin should be OK if he doesn’t make contact with the ghost, which may not be an easy feat. Other tales in this 13-story collection save much of the horror for twisty endings. The author’s skillful character development gives these denouements a hefty punch. In “The Nocturnal Habits of the Late Derek Gray,” for example, the sheriff of a small Maine town investigates a murder. It’s a simple mystery—a local man shot and killed his best friend—that builds to a memorably eerie turn. Ebenezer’s impressive pacing drops readers into the narratives and generates action scenes (for example, characters battling otherworldly beings) within relatively short stories. At the same time, he aptly describes all the spooky morsels, like a summoned demon: “Its spine protruded through the scaly skin of its back, its corded muscles visible underneath, though its chest was encased in an exoskeleton, as if it were wearing the rib cage of a larger creature. The tail came last, no trace of skin attached to it.” The collection’s most indelible stories fuse genres, like the dark Western “Two Shadows, One Gun.” The tale follows notorious gunslinger Deadeye Dixon, who takes out anyone that challenges him in his Old West town. Locals soon learn the terrifying reason Deadeye never loses a gunfight, but not before more bullets fly and bodies fall. Another cross-genre story is the steampunk-inspired “Fertile Minds,” which is also the book’s highlight. The tale’s hero, Chelsea Pepperdine, combats evil in 19th-century London; she’s a whip-smart, formidable woman who practically demands her own series.
Chilling tales that deftly blend the traditional and the unorthodox.