Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Review: Return to Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity

Return to Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity Return to Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity by Michael J. Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the second entry in Grinning Skull Press's DEATHLEHEM series, which makes Christmas Horror a charitable event. It also gives readers frequent doses of the Spooks, some heartwarming, some horror, and a massive dose of entertainment.

"The Shortcut" by Susan Jay: the overarching theme is grief at Christmas, but the story really triggered me, not for that reason. I am distraught over the cruelty of humans, and the lying and betrayal. I won't be specific so as to protect the integrity of the unread story for new readers.

"Bloody Christmas" by Steph Minns: just when you thought all you had to worry about were serial killers, natural disasters, global warming, and pedophiles--well, there are millennia-old dangers too. They aren't pretty and they sure are implacable. Lock yourself in, lock up your children. Stay under the covers and don't peer outside.

"He Sees You When You're Sleeping" by Christopher M. Morgan: Ol' Krampus has nothing on this version of Santa....I love to read theories about the nature and existence of deities depending on believers. Sir Terry Pratchett strummed this theme excellently, as have several others. Here is a new chord in this progression. In the contemporary cultural climate, this Santa makes all too much sense...

"A Merry Little Christmas" by Rose Blackthorn: the Christmas season is all about love, light, and family--and peace. When greed threatens to wreck long-suffering Ethan' s Christmas cheer--and his future-he puts aside his "goodwill toward men" and acts decisively.

"The Wren" by Kevin G. Bufton: an incredibly sad, poignant, moving, village tale, full of history and backdrop and scenery. I want to say, "It didn't have to happen this way," but sadly, the conclusion is probably implacably inevitable. I shall not soon be forgetting this one.

"White Christmas" by DJ Tyrer: why does scary have to be accompanied by sad? Sigh. Maybe that's the nature of true horror. Implacable and unavoidable.

"A Labor Dispute" by Michael Shayne: again,
implacable and unavoidable. Mistakes piled upon mistakes lead to misery and destruction. The way the author weaves in the historical background and vivid setting is impressive. Shades of Harlan, Kentucky's 1930's.

"The Night Before Christmas" by Philip Thorogood: An exceptional tale, scary and poignant. I do love to read of Krampus and of the good-evil dichotomy of Santa and Krampus.

"Survival of the Reddest" by Vicky MacDonald Harris:
Turn "goodwill toward all" and Christmas cheer on its head, think North Pole Arctic Darwinism.

"Awash With the Christmas Spirit" by Jordan Phelps: Sometimes it seems no place is really safe at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day--not even midnight mass. This Christmas Eve service is definitely "awash," but that terror they're feeling isn't a product of the Season.

"What Child Is This?" By Joel Reeves: I think this story left me with anger more than anything; I guess I may have a soft spot after all, and I guess getting angry when evil twists good really isn't so bad.

"Minnie' s Christmas Gift" by Gregory K. Liu : I want a Hellhound for Christmas! I really feared this story was going to bring me a lot more Christmas horror than I wanted--but instead, it proceeded to be just perfect, and adorable.

"Secret Santa" by Chantal Boudreaux: a very effective short story, subtle, leaving protagonist and reader wondering "What if?"

"A Christmas Miracle" by Kerry G. S. Lipp: extreme horror version of "Be careful what you wish for," not for the sensitive.

"A Christmas Remembrance" by JP Behrens: a mother's love is never surpassed nor overcome--not ever...

"No Sugar Plum Fairies" by Steven Bigwood: Quite delightful. I confess to preferring poetic justice ("as ye sow, so shall ye reap"), you know, "just rewards" kind of thing--so this story REALLY pleased me.

"CRACK!" By Gerard Griffin : Confession: Nutcrackers are seriously scary. Give me clover-hooved, goat-behorned, Krampus any day. That stated, occasionally they do have their purpose, as here.

"Split" by Jay Wilburn: Like "A Labor Dispute," this sad tale invokes sins of the fathers being visited upon the sons--except in this case, not the father, and the victim is unfortunately not even a genetic relation.

"Nell' s Game" by Nicole DeGennaro: Oh my goodness, I love the scares and the subtlety in this one! Like a silent stalker, the scares...just...creep....up...

"Cursed Christmas" by David J. Delaney: I looked to this story to be a supernatural one, and in a way it was, but it's also strongly human good vs. human evil, as well. Quite engrossing.

"Ornamentation" by Alys Day: this story is SAD! It's like an entire yarn ball of sad Christmas stories rolled up together. I even felt sorry (kind of) for the protagonist. Sigh...

"The Trap" by Mike Pieloor: I do dearly love my Krampus tales, and in the last few years I've encountered more and more of these wonderfully Christmas-enhancing tales. I love 'em! I also love the deliverance of just desserts. {Smile}

"Killing Christmas" by Mark Parker: this final tale in this Anthology comes out of nowhere and punches, punches, punches! The reader doesn't know where to turn, and neither does the protagonist. Tautly-plotted and masterfully delivered--I loved it! Kudos to the co-editors! The perfect choice to conclude.

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