Poetry and philosophy pepper and bookend the unsettling tales, without slowing down or undercutting narrative momentum, a testament to Rios’s artistry. Tension builds ominously as the nightmare realities of the scenarios dawn on characters and readers both—reading, it’s hard not to inch one’s nose closer to the page in shivering anticipation at “something old and mouldy” in the storeroom, or at a business man giving his “peasant” lover his mother’s necklace, a perverse sort of “coronation,” when the lover knows the the mother would consider her “a dishonorable woman” who “fornicates” with the son. Afterwards, the couple “maul[s] each other as if they lusted for blood”—as in, they make love—and when the trap snaps, the entranced reader is as surprised as the prey.
This Indonesia is haunted by ghosts and devils and dispatches from the dead, but also guilt, class concerns, and more. Repeating figures like overbearing mothers and disloyal lovers feels universal, even if the myths and legends breathing life into these stories are fresh to readers.
Takeaway: Gripping, unsettling horror stories of a haunted Indonesia.
Comparable Titles: Intan Paramaditha’s Apple and Knife, Adam Nevill’s Some Will Not Sleep.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-