Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death is a compendium of grim short stories, each with their own interpretation of the title of this work. No one is safe here, with a rogue’s gallery of villains that range from the tragic to the demonic that all lust for blood, flesh, and the demise of all who cross their paths.
I read the paperback version of the book, which note that there are 4 bonus tales vs. the electronic version. I will provide a brief synopsis of each tale without providing any spoilers.
Deadly Mistakes tells the tragic tale of a man out for revenge after a clerical error at a law office that lets a murdering monster free to slaughter his wife.
Turn of Events turns the tables on the traditional sad tale of domestic violence.
Stalkers Beware provides some new ideas of how to deal with all those pesky groupies if you are a rock star.
Hope of a Future takes a look at a bleak apocalyptic future where hoping for even the most simple things can make things even more grim.
Game Gone Wrong mixes science fiction with the very prevalent fear of the government watching your every move, and doing whatever it takes to find out what you know.
Mystery Meat is a simple tale of a meat packing facility trying to find out where several bins of prime cuts of meat came from that no one knows about…with morbid results.
Father’s Revenge is a succinct, blunt tale of a father’s revenge when his wife betrays him, as seen through the eyes of his daughter.
Innocent Blood starts out much like the previous tale, but with the desire for revenge going dreadfully wrong.
On Account of Bacon speaks of how unspeakable tragedies can occur for the most innocuous reasons…or in this case, thanks to a delicious breakfast meat.
Evil Mountain asks the question ‘what do you get when a werewolf, vampire, witch, zombie, and dragon walk into a poor, innocent villager’s hut?’ Nothing pleasant, I can tell you that much.
The Heart of Heroism tells the tragic tale of Billy Jack, a mentally handicapped man-child who simply wants to be a superhero and gets his chance when the zombie apocalypse starts up in the tenement he lives in with his overbearing father.
Historical Significance is a traditional ghost tale with a demonic twist.
Memories starts out asking the question ‘Have you ever heard a rabbit scream?’ and goes deeper down the rabbit hole from there.
Overall, this set of macabre tales are solidly written, though some are stronger and more compelling than others. Each share a very fatalistic perspective, though they range from the gore splattered to the sinister. Hope of a Future, Innocent Blood, Evil Mountain, and The Heart of Heroism were my favorites of the lot, while a couple of the very short tales didn’t do it for me, like Turn of Events and Father’s Revenge. When the author works with more than a page or two, she is able to craft characters that are real, vivid, and accessible.
Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser/dp/0615858163/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-2&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (paperback) and here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser-ebook/dp/B00E1LPQZS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-1&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (kindle).
Phineas Cavanaugh is a hack Necromancer living near Seattle who scrapes by tracking down lost souls or by occasionally helping the police out with a murder investigation. He left his guild pretty much in shame a few years back and has had a hard knock life ever since. Things start to get interesting when he is hired to seek out the lost soul of an elderly woman’s dead husband and a demon tries to devour him in a park while on the job. At the same time the police call upon his services to track down a vicious shape shifter who seems to know Phineas and might just be hunting him as well.
Things get worse from there as Phineas’s old mentor is attacked and brutally murdered at his guild and he is called upon to return to his old stomping grounds to figure out what has happened by attempting to speak to his departed friend’s soul. That is when all hell breaks loose, literally. Phineas is thrust into a mystery where old enemies and friends are drawn into the fray with him smack dab in the middle. He has to figure out what is going on and what part he is supposed to play before demons and the dead alike tear their way into our plane of existence and destroy everything that Phineas cares about.
At The Behest Of The Dead is told in first person and one can’t help but be reminded of noir detective potboilers with its urban sensibilities and snarky attitude. Phineas is a self-effacing schlub with a good heart even if he does work with the dead and rubs elbows with demons and other questionable sorts. It has a bit of Simon Green’s Nightside going for it, as well as Glenn Cook’s Garrett Files. Urban fantasy with as much irreverence as mystery, with a bit of romance tossed in for good measure. And Phineas, like other hard luck P.I-types, seems to attract the attention of the ladies despite perhaps looking and acting like he has been ridden hard and put away wet most of the time. Even though he has rough edges (or maybe because he does), Phineas is a likable sort, making his tale easy to read and entertaining.
Tim Long stretches himself beyond the zombie apocalyptic genre he normally haunts with this one, although he gives a winking nod to his roots with a few zombies showing up, though they are not anywhere near being a critical part of the telling of this tale. He has crafted an interesting world with the magical elements fantasy fans will appreciate while putting his own slant on things, making this world his and his alone. The characters are interesting and diverse enough to make them stand out and I can imagine some pretty intriguing adventures in their future. A fun read that has excellent potential as the start of an enjoyable series of books.
At The Behest Of The Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EZCXA9M/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Well it is Friday the 13th and while many folks consider that bad luck, I think it is a great day…and the start of a great weekend. Especially for fans of great apocalyptic fiction. Permuted Press, my publisher, has decided that this would be a great weekend to promote the heck out of virtually every one of the books they offer on Kindle by having a sale that runs through Sunday. So go on over to Amazon to check things out. Just click on the picture below and you’ll be sent to the list of books for sale, including all three books in my trilogy: Comes The Dark, Into The Dark, and Beyond The Dark. Plenty of other fantastic books can be found on sale, including plenty of ones that I’ve reviewed here. So here is your chance to pick them up for either 99 cents or $2.99 when they’re regularly around $7.99. So check it out, and as they say over at Permuted, Enjoy the Apocalypse!
Blood Verse is Patrick James Ryan’s first published work and is an anthology of horror tales interspersed with poems. Each poem follows the same format of rhyming couplets-there is no free verse poems in the mix.
As is usually the case with most anthologies, you reach into the goody bag and aren’t sure what you will get each time, especially when there is no set theme. That is the case here. Certainly, each tale has a horror bent to it, but they range from the supernatural to the more ‘regular’ every day type tales of serial killers and grim misfortune. Kudos to the author for giving the reader a diverse set of shorts and poems with some unexpected and entertaining twists.
The good: the author does a solid job of backing up his stories with decent research that allows him to provide us with a book rich in diverse locales and plotlines. It’s clear that effort was put forth to give each tale some heft and a solid background that makes them feel more real. Though not every story has that ‘blink with surprise’ type ending that readers often expect, when they do happen here many were quite satisfying and enjoyable. There are some genuinely entertaining stories on these pages that I enjoyed a great deal. I know the term ‘fun’ is not always associated with horror, but I had fun reading them.
The challenging: I’m not going to say the ‘bad’ because that wouldn’t be fair to the author, because while some of the shorts found here didn’t resonate with me, they were still solidly crafted. I could see the potential in most of them and I admire the author for putting together a very diverse compendium of tales and taking some risks here and there. They just didn’t all hit the mark for me. One of the reasons is that there is a healthy dose of tell vs. show mixed into several of the stories. It is a challenge all authors face-attempting to avoid making the yarn they are spinning feel more like a newspaper account of what is happening. They instead want to give the reader a feeling of immersion, as if they are experiencing everything alongside the characters. The author does accomplish that immersion in many cases, but in some instances it wasn’t there. There were also some typos throughout, noticeable but not a major distraction.
While some stories just didn’t click for me (Pain and the Boxer, Desert Death, Hair as examples) others were very entertaining (Bus Stop, Road Rage Bigot, Walking the Dog, Elevator…among others) and that is what reading an anthology is all about: finding those gold nuggets that make reading a mix of different tales well worth the time, which Blood Verse succeeded in doing for me. Chances are, if you are a horror fan, you will find a few solid nuggets in this book as well.
Blood Verse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0988659034/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Death In The Times of Madness is Michael S Gardner’s compendium of short stories, many of which have a zombie slant to them, as that is his first passion in writing. He’s also published a novella and novel that are zombie-centric too. There are some stories here that diverge from that path though, giving the reader a bit of diversity, though the author ‘sticks with the scrip’ and doesn’t move too far off from what a zombie fan will enjoy. From tales of personal woe to stories that are far grander is scope, the author explores some interesting topics and provides the reader with some moments that really resonate.
Of course, not every story packs the same punch and not all of them were hits in my opinion, but overall, this collection showcases an author who has grown as a writer over the past few years, with his ability to craft characters and stories getting sharper and stronger with time. Some of the tales have no message, just provide simple entertainment, while others pack more emotional heft and lingered in my mind after their completion. Overall, this is a fun, easy-to-read collection of mostly zombie tales that shows the talents of an independent author who continues to get better with every story he writes.
Death In The Times of Madness can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1481228196/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Tales of the Undead-Hell Whore is the first in a series of anthologies, with this one specifically having as its theme devilish women. The overall title “Tales of the Undead” is perhaps a bit inaccurate, since many of these stories have nothing to do with the undead, but the subtitle is certainly more of a description of what is included within its pages. In some stories, this association is obvious, while in others that association to evil women is a lot more subtle.
It is often difficult to provide a review of an anthology because almost without fail, they are a mixed bag. A consistent theme often allows for a more comprehensive overview-each author provides a story to the mix that sticks to a sometimes loose, but understood guideline. TotU-HW does have a theme, but it runs the gambit with stories of vampires, ghosts, demons, witches, Satan, human-animal hybrids, werewolves, ancient gods, sexually voracious women, and even more of a mix of swirling horrors. And that isn’t even mentioning the poems, which are as diverse a lot as the short stories.
There were some gems in this book from my perspective, including “Entre of the Damned” and “Girls are Icky”, both appreciated for entirely different reasons, and of course some stories that did not click, which I will admit is more due to personal preference rather than the quality of the work, at least in most cases. The writing styles here are quite diverse, with everything from the delicately subtle to in your face. I enjoyed “Who F&*ked Up Kelly Yesterday?” because I have a taste for bizarro horror, while I know that there will be plenty of folks who would be repulsed by this story’s audacity. There were a few stories that I felt that the writing was a bit rough, with both the story itself and the way the author telling it making it feel forced and hard to get through, but there those were only a select few out of this bunch. There were some sagas that felt incomplete to me-either telling instead of showing and letting the tale reveal itself, or in one case where the writing style seemed a bit forced and awkward- like the author was providing a summary rather than providing the reader with the story itself.
Anthologies are journeys where the road is both smooth and bumpy at different times. Rarely do you find a short story compendium where every story hits the mark. But finding a short story or poem you really enjoy and that will stick with you makes the journey through the good, the great, and the bad worthwhile. Tales of the Undead-Hell Whore is such an anthology.
Tales of the Undead: Hello Whore can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BLR40A2/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Pavlov’s Dogs jumps right into things, starting out several weeks after the zombie apocalypse has gotten into full swing and most of the human race has been wiped out or turned. We are immediately introduced to a group of what looks to be werewolves as they save a couple of humans running out of time and options as the undead close in on them. At first, the reader isn’t given much more to go on about these wolves as the story flips back in time to the day the zombie attacks began, where we are introduce to Ken and Jorge, friends who work together in construction and are driving down the highway when everything rapidly falls apart all around them. There are a few more time shifts in the story as we are given a more proper introduction to the wolves and the scientists who created them. They are genetically enhanced Special Forces troops who have had microchips implanted in their brains, allowing them to transform into a human-wolf hybrid with superior combat skills, strength, and healing capabilities. The experiments on these men have been taking place on a small island off the coast and the advent of the zombie apocalypse seems like the ideal opportunity to test the ‘dogs’ under combat-like conditions when they are sent in to save the few remaining survivors on the mainland. Or so it seems.
Pavlov’s Dogs moves quickly, serving up plenty of human (and werewolf) conflict that makes the story an interesting read. Zombies don’t play as major a role as they do in most zompoc tales, but that works just fine here. We all know who the real bad guys are anyway, and in this case, we not only have human baddies but some werewolf ones as well, and they keep things intriguing from start to finish. Though this tale has plenty of dark moments, the authors keep things light with the occasional injection of welcome humor. Ken is easily the most in depth and likable character, along with his pal Jorge, who likes cracking jokes regardless of how grim the situation becomes. Some of the dogs, like Mac and Kaiser, were also well detailed and it was easy to see their human sides, even when they were in full wolf form.
If I have a criticism here, it would lay with another couple of characters. Drs. Crispin and Donovan, the two main scientists on the island, are reasonably well detailed but at the same time there seems to be hints at more depth to each of them, in particular Donovan. As an example, a significant detail about Crispin is discovered during the plot and yet it goes unexplored, even though it could have led the story down a very intriguing path. Donovan’s motivations also seem to be a bit forced. He is an interesting character, but one that I feel could have been further developed, which may have given me a better appreciation for his transformation as a character throughout the story.
Even with these minor quibbles, I enjoyed this story a great deal. The science takes a back seat to the action-we aren’t given highly detailed explanation of how or why the wolves transform and I doubt the story would have been enhanced further if we had gotten such an overview. Instead, we get to see werewolves dive into battle with zombies and with each other, which should satisfy most of the action/gore fans out there. In addition, we get to see what happens when a werewolf gets bitten by a zombie, which was something that does not disappoint. Overall, this zombie-werewolf hybrid tale is fun, unique, and definitely worth checking out.
Pavlov’s Dogs can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Pavlovs-Dogs-D-L-Snell/dp/1618680218/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340772653&sr=1-1&keywords=pavlov%27s+dogs