by Reggie Oliver
2017: Tartarus Press
Oliver's skill, competence, and fecundity are a source of unalloyed pleasure for readers in the genre of strange/weird literature. There are no cliches here. This is craftsmanship on a very high level, every page displaying the author's seemingly effortless style.
Holiday from Hell
Seven unspeakable retirees from a nursing home in Diss descend upon Brightsea, where our young narrator is a tyro with the local theater company.
The Silken Drum
....Yuki was standing up and Justin was sitting or kneeling in front of her, I could not tell which. Yuki's face was almost entirely obscured from me by her long black hair. I could see her figure down to just below the thigh and she was naked. Though half turned away from me I saw the contour of her breast and its raspberry coloured nipple. Justin's face was clearly visible and his expression gave me a shock. He was gazing up at her and his look was one of perplexity and terror. I could not help approaching for a closer look.
Yuki lifted up one arm and from a cup began to pour a liquid over Justin's head. His expression turned from one of fear to acute agony and he covered his face with his hands. I heard her laugh. It was a terrible laugh, high pitched, like an animal's shriek, a laugh of pure vicious mockery without a trace of humour or humanity in it.
The Green Hour
C. Auguste Dupin and the great mystery of the Paris Exhibition Murders of 1867.
The Perfect Author
At a mystery writing con, one popular writer finds out just how powerful she is at creating believable villains.
A tale of supernatural revenge, checking many Jamesian boxes. Brilliant achievement in historical verisimilitude.
The Druid's Rest
Anne and Sheila, on a Welsh cycling holiday, take shelter from a thunderstorm at The Druid's Rest.
The Rooms Are High
Another strange story of uncanny accomodations and the weird habits they call forth from visitors.
The Prince of Darkness
'What was he like?'
'Well . . . Have you got a week to spare perchance? You know they used to call him the Prince of Darkness?'
The Book and the Ring
A brilliantly executed story of witchcraft and damnation.
....not caring to see further I pressed on and found many pages on which were written strange devices, and some words which were in the Latin tongue, and some in Greek and Hebrew, and some in what I took to be the Moorish script of the Heathen Mahometans, and some in a language I knew not but took to be, from some indicacions, to be the Saxon tongue of those in Britain before the coming of the Norman Kings into our island.
The Maze at Huntsmere
Ash trees and a maze? And at the maze's center, a marble statue of Pan?
Trouble at Botathan
A sleek, perfect tale (like so many in this collection), featuring some excerpts from a young woman's blue notebook diary.
....It was strange, wild, choppy countryside. We were not far from Bodmin Moor and the small fields were ringed by irregular dry stone walls, mostly inhabited by sheep. I tried to follow the designated track but the heat and the sheer wild beauty of the place halted me. At last, when it became obvious that I would never catch up with the others, I decided to make my own way back to the house where we were staying, The Place, as it was called.
A Day with the Delusionists
'Talking of which, do you remember the Delusionists? And the Delusionists' dinner?'
'Do I? Of course I do! How could I forget?'
It was a strange business, that one dinner of the Delusionists, with its shocking and sinister aftermath.
....The sky had that leprous orange light that you get in London on cloudy nights when a million street lamps send up their illumination to the foggy atmosphere above. Against it some creatures seemed to be swarming, like a flock of starlings settling for the night across a tranquil water meadow. But these were not starlings: they were larger, less compactly shaped with batlike wings and long spidery legs. He heard their cries, high and almost inaccessible to the ear, calling in challenge to the senseless air they
'Do you see them now?' asked Tim.
'What are they?'
'Do I need to tell you?'
'Demons,' said Alan.
Love at Second Sight
A harrowing, sublime story of regret. Like the Edith Wharton protagonist in "Afterward," Oliver's narrator only realizes the kind of puzzle he is dealing with when the action ceases.
18 July 2019