A lengthy set of stories that explore many facets of fear and human wickedness.
Retired police officer–turned–horror novelist Jefferson continues to explore how evil infiltrates the lives of his predominantly Black characters in this new collection of arresting stories. In the harrowing opening tale, “Stimulated by Evil,” a trio of burglars stake out the mansion of a wealthy vacationing couple, but after they rob the house of its priciest items, a grisly comeuppance awaits them. Other tales are equally as menacing and come spring-loaded with surprising twists, as in one about a desperate ploy by a wife to save her marriage from infidelity or another about two siblings and their dying father who abandoned them. Each story packs a punch, but one of the most intense is “Consumed by Evil,” which features a physician with a uniquely abrasive bedside manner—he smokes while he treats patients, spews racial diatribes, has a stocked liquor cabinet in his office, and delivers tough-love diagnoses to a series of bewildered patients. Revenge, vigilante justice, and the agony of betrayal are also key themes. Jefferson’s tales are reminiscent of episodes of The Twilight Zone in which everyday people face unspeakable horrors or grim challenges—often without the satisfaction of a happy ending. As in the author’s past Touched by Evil collections, the stories don’t skimp on explicit sex, gore, or expletives, and, as such, sensitive readers may want to proceed with caution. There are also occasional awkward passages, including unnatural dialogue (“Now that we have reconnected, let me tell you why it was so urgent for me to find you”) and a lack of clarity in some sections. These quibbles, however, shouldn’t deter devoted genre fans who will appreciate these addictive, frightening works.
A memorable collection of provocative horror.