The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 3 review

The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 3The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 3 by Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Any anthology is a bit like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get inside. And a horror anthology comes with a frisson of fear, a touch of M.R. James’s “pleasing terror”.
I am happy to report that there are no duds in The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 3: A Miscellany of Monsters., to give it its full title. Indeed there are some real doozies.
Horror stirs up our deepest fears. Death, disintegration, loss of self, fear of being devoured. Along with that are recurring themes of grief and loss. And of course there is humour, whether dark or mischievous.
The monsters are as diverse as the stories. Most are physically horrifying and many are disturbing. Some are beautiful and some (almost) sympathetic. Some may only exist in the narrator’s mind. You can’t be sure…
Build Your Own Monster!!! Guaranteed to Scare the Whole Family!!! by Bryn Fortey and Johnny Mains is funny and satisfying. Emily Vaught opens a kit from a long-vanished company in America, ignoring the warning on the box, with unexpected consequences for her and her beastly brother, Jason.
The Head by Gary Kilworth. Primal body horror in this tale of an explorer who uses Maori techniques to sail from Australia to Hawaii. Ship-wrecked on a coral reef in the isolation of the South Seas, he has to face death – or worse.
Inappetence by Steve Rasnic Tem. There’s a painful irony in this story of an old man facing the indignity of a lingering death. Gripping and deeply melancholy.
Songs in the Dark by Jenny Barber. In this lyrical and chilling tale, the question of who – or what – is monstrous is turned on its head, as a cynical smuggler gets more than he bargained for. These are not Disney mermaids!
The Beast of Bathwick by Sarah Ash. Based on local legend, this mischievous story suggests a solution to the nature of the beast, with a flavour of Saki as magic intervenes in the main character’s life.
Cuckoo Flower by Tom Johnstone. An ecological horror rooted in fear of nature and its revenge for human depredations. A bleak and impressive view of invasive species that you really don’t want in your back garden.
A Song for Christmas by Ashe Woodward. Sheer body horror and plenty of yuck factor in this story about the Christmas from Hell. If you’re not keen on the festive season, this won’t improve your view. Or it could be an antidote to the mawkish sentimentality.
Dream a Little Dream of Me and My Shadow by Adrian Cole. This starts out like a US-style police procedural with pulp vibes before exploding into gothic horror. The hero and his smart and glamorous sidekick Ariadne find themselves hauled into the Dream Realm. A gripping fantasy horror mystery with some truly unpleasant monsters.
Memories of Clover by K.T. Wagner. A creepy story about family and bee-keeping that will probably put you off honey for life. The moments of unexpected beauty lull you into a false sense of security. The denouement and reveal are devastating.
Sun, Sand, Stone by Marion Pitman. Another deceptively beautiful story about love, guilt and loss with a harrowing ending. Is the narrator a murderer? The mythical past invades the present to decide their fate.
Redwater by Simon Bestwick. An eerie and melancholy tale that evokes a post-apocalyptic England with a strong sense of place, and visceral horror from under water. This mixes folk horror and yearning for a lost past with brutal violence.
Dreamcatcher by Pauline E. Dungate. In a bleak contemporary setting, the resourceful heroine discovers the power of nightmares, with unexpected consequences
The Daughters by Tim Jeffreys. A folk horror about a Cornish fishing village you really wouldn’t want to visit. Street-smart young wife Kiara has to overcome her scepticism and attempt to rescue her husband from unspeakable horrors.
Black Spots by John Llewelyn Probert. Sadness is at the root of this story about bereavement and creatures from English folklore. Adapted to the modern world they have not lost their cruel power.
Echoes of Days Past by Mike Chinn. With a wealth of historical detail, this is a chilling story in which experimental sonar in World War II disturbs something from the deep. A vividly imagined terror on board a submarine.
What the Snow Brings by Ralph Robert Moore. A grim and gripping tale that gives a new meaning to the phrase “cabin fever”. It evokes the bleakness and horror of the wilderness in winter, and the indifference of nature to human suffering.

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