Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Review: Creeping Shadows - Three Dark Tales

Creeping Shadows is a novella anthology that contains three different stories from authors Alan Draven, Brandon Ford and Jessica Lynne Gardner. The novellas differ from historical supernatural horror, to a story based on recent true events to a tale about an ancient Aztec curse. I loved the variety of the stories and how they each offered something completely different to readers!

The first story, Vengeance is Mine by Alan Draven, re-envisions the the tale of Jack the Ripper. The infamous Whitechapel butcher, whose actual name is Vincent Fowler in this story, starts off attending the prestigious Royal Academy of Surgeons of England but gets kicked out for a distasteful prank as well as his low social rank (his mother was a prostitute and he feels the Academy has always looked down upon him for that shameful fact). After traveling to America, Fowler returns many years later to seek his vengeance on London and begins killing prostitutes. Yet, as much as he relishes spilling their blood and bodily organs, he begins to be haunted by a specter of one of his victims…and this ghost just won’t quit until she gets revenge!

I really enjoyed how masterfully Draven wove true facts throughout his fictional story, even paying attention to the little details! The whole class war aspect of the Jack the Ripper case, in which he was supposedly trying to draw the attention of the aristocrats the the poorer areas of London, was even explored! And his hatred of prostitutes is very well established as his own mother was one. As someone who is very much interested in the macabre Jack the Ripper case, I definitely appreciated Draven’s careful following of the facts in the case and how his own interjections fit squarely into the facts as well.

Furthermore, the novella was very quickly paced and a very exciting read. It was interesting to get to take a peek inside Jack the Ripper’s head and see exactly what he might have been thinking. Plus, the gory killing scenes were quite shocking, even if you already knew all about the case and its victims. The inclusion of the supernatural was an added treat!

The next novella, Merciless by Brandon Ford, was probably my least favorite and didn’t seem to quite fit within the other two novella’s supernatural themes. It is based on a true story about two young high school girls abducted by a madman. They are brutally raped and beaten within an inch of their lives, but they work together to try and escape the madman’s clutches, even as he drives them further and further away from anything familiar.

There is no doubt that Merciless is a horrifying story, but its unfortunately something we read about in the news every day (the original story it is based on is here) and I don’t necessarily want to read about it in my leisure time. While the story is well-written, it just doesn’t offer anything new or original like the other two stories contained in this anthology. Still, this is more personal preference and there is no denying the talent of Ford’s writing…I just wish the subject matter had been a bit more engaging.

The last story, Sugar Skull by Jessica Lynne Gardner, is probably my favorite of the anthology. Someone or something is killing Latinos with a rare poison that the police can’t track down. The victims all had a sugar skull shoved down their throats coated with what appears to be a Central American poison. When Annabel’s father is also found dead, she, with the help of her mother and a forensic specialist, must track down the killer, who appears to be tied to an ancient Aztec curse.

Sugar Skull was a fantastic story that I just couldn’t put down! More so than the other novellas in the anthology, I found myself glued to the pages of Sugar Skull, rooting for the characters to solve the supernatural case! I really loved the uniqueness of the story and appreciated that the author used Dia De Los Muertos and Aztec legends as the backdrop for the tale. I also thought that the villain turned out to be very frightening! I still get the heebie jeebies when I think about it! I also enjoyed the tragic backstory of the villain and the sacrifice it took to finally stop the killings.

Creeping Shadows is an extremely engaging, creative and worthwhile anthology. It definitely lives up to its title and you will definitely be checking over your shoulder after reading the stories contained in Creeping Shadows! I highly recommend this book to pretty much all horror fans, because it definitely has something for everyone!

Order it on Amazon!

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