This book was reviewed for the San Francisco Book Review
McKiernan’ Manuscripts of the Macabre is a quaint collection of tales to lure you just beyond the veil. The first story is the longest, focusing on Karl Quinn, a prison guard attending an execution that goes terribly wrong, and this is just the beginning of his misery. Aspects of this story reminded me a good deal of the movie Session 9 in the apparent transference of the Wolf. Like Simon, who lives “in the weak and the wounded, Doc.” This was one of my favourite stories because of those links to Session 9.
The next story is about a storm quite unlike any other, witnessed by two orphaned mountain children. I have to admit, they were far braver than I’d have been. I’d’ve hid in the basement from the start. ‘Bison on the Range’ takes us away from the supernatural, yet it’s just as harrowing. There are echoes of Hannibal Lecter in this story, which I enjoyed.
Lady Elusion played on themes that struck home for me. It’s certainly open to interpretation, but what I garnered from it was the theme is schizophrenia. I had an uncle who had mild schizophrenia and talked to people we couldn’t see. He was never violent though. They did not encourage such.
Red Lights was horrifying on more than one level. Two boys exploring an abandoned house stumble on terrible evidence suggesting this abode has become a haven for a sexual predator. When the potential predator returns, things take a turn into the truly bizarre. Geez, this story reminded me of all the creepy urban explorer videos my roommates love to watch. John Doe was quite ghoulish, but in a humourous way. C’mon, people high on weed trying to deal with a dead body? Priceless.
I really enjoyed all of these stories. I tend to focus in story over mechanics and I would highly recommend this book. The stories are wonderfully wrought. There are a few technical aspects I would be remiss in omitting. There are occasionally misspelled words. Most are homophone issues. A few seem to be an auto-correct issue, that bane of modern writing tools. They are so eager to help, they don’t think maybe you used the word you actually wanted.
A second issue lay in dialogue tags, and this issue did, on occasion, pull me from the story. It is a good thing to use a scattering of different tags, just for variety, but when the majority of dialogue tags are words other than ‘ask’ or ‘said’, it very jolting.
???1/2 Recommended for those who enjoy the more elegantly wrought stories of the macabre, of horror, and the darkness that lies within men.