Phantoms: Edited by Marie O’Regan
Reviewed by D.K. Hundt
Phantoms: Haunting Tales from the Masters of the Genre is a new collection of eighteen ghost stories featuring the brightest names in horror from authors Joe Hill, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, M.R. Carey, Angela Slatter, Robert Shearman, Tim Lebbon, Laura Purcell, Catriona Ward, Muriel Gray, John Connolly, Helen Grant, A. K. Benedict, Kelley Armstrong, George Mann, Mark A. Latham, Gemma Files, and Alison Littlewood.
I haven’t read an anthology in a very long time, my go-to of choice was that of my favorite horror and mystery authors that I haven’t read in a very long time. I have forgotten how much I enjoy the cornucopia of different writing styles and this book, edited by Marie O’Regan and Published by Titan Books, was a pleasure to read.
The novel opens with one of my favorite short stories written by Angela Slatter; When We Fall, We Forget, wherein a preacher, like the ‘drunkenly twisted oak that clings to the side of the granite church,’ Father McBride leans on his faith in the hopes that his sinister secret will never be revealed. Robert Shearman’s Tom Is in The Attic, is a unique tale about possession, and one that honestly left me puzzled by the stories end. Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghost, another favorite, is set in an old movie theater, not like one of the chains you see today; the Rosebud is steeped in cinematic history and legend of both the living and the dead. A Man Walking His Dog by Tim Lebbon reminds me of the many crime shows I love to watch that begins with a man walking a dog or a jogger who happens upon an unexpected find in an out of the way place, seldom, if ever, do we hear how they feel after making such a discovery as we do in this story, which is as heartbreaking as Laura Purcell’s Cameo, the next haunted tale in this anthology, a writing style, like many in this collection, I absolutely fell in love with. There are a few stories within, including this one, when my jaw-dropped, and I uttered loudly, according to my husband ‘Holy crap! I wasn’t expecting that ending,’ and I love it when that happens. My husband, not so much in the wee hours of the morning. Catriona Ward’s Lula-Belle is a haunting tale of sisterly love that’s soured and stewed over the years into contempt of one so thick towards the other, it’s like the ‘shrill tinkle’ of a persistent bell, ‘each peal was like a dent in her sister’s skull.’ Front Row Rider by Muriel Gray is another story with a jaw-dropping conclusion that I joyfully did not predict. A Haunting by John Connolly is a heartfelt story about the never-ending love of a married couple. ‘She was his as he was hers, and she had never regretted that fact, and would never grow weary of it. But now there was no Mrs., only Mr… Her death had tilted the globe on its axis,’ my eyes tearing as I turned the page. My Life in Politics by M.R. Carey is about ‘the spirits of those without a voice who refuse to let a politician keep them silent,’ and let’s just say I was praying that good would prevail over the evil within. Frank, Hide by Josh Malerman, and The Chain Walk by Helen Grant are two more twisted tales of sweet revenge from beyond the grave, and I gleefully wasn’t disappointed by the way the stories end. The Adjoining Room by A.K. Benedict is set in a haunted hotel room and is another story I thoroughly enjoyed. ‘I’m in the Adjoining Room. There is one window. Sometimes it shows the sea… I have two options. I’m not sure which is the braver.’ The Ghost in the Glade by Kelly Armstrong, in a word, loved! ‘There’s a ghost that plays in an empty glade… She tells me she’s sad. She begs me to stay and cries when I leave and wants me to join her.’ The Restoration by George Mann is so well written, like many stories in this anthology, I can only hope my writing will one day measure up to that of the authors in this book. ‘Rae has always believed in magic. Not the elaborate trickery of stage performers, nor the twee tales of childhood, whispered by a soothing mother into her childhood ear…No, this is magic of an earthly kind; the sort made real by the scratch of pencil upon paper, the gentle sliding of a brush across a fresh canvas –a spell wrought in indigo and ochre, crimson and gold.’ One New Follower by Mark A. Nathan begins with an innocent looking social media smartphone app and ends with something entirely more sinister. A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken by Paul Tremblay is told in a unique style of writing reminiscent of the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books I read so many moons ago, giving the reader an option to leave the haunted house at several points within the narrative, however, it was my twisted curiosity that drove me forward to what was, for me, a heartbreaking end. Hallo by Gemma Files reads like the psychological thrillers I’ve enjoyed over the years, and the last story in this collection is The Marvellous Talking Machine by Alison Littlewood, though a haunting fictional tale, it’s loosely based on Joseph Faber’s talking machine called the Euphonia that was displayed at the Egyptian Hall in 1846. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and I really enjoyed reading this story.
In closing, I want to thank Titan Books for providing Kendall Reviews with an ARC of Phantoms, it was not only a pleasure to read but also to review and a novel I highly recommend. All quotes within this review come from an advanced copy of this book.
If my review of Phantoms sparked your interest, then, by all means, take a bite, and delve into the creative minds of the authors – you may be surprised by what you find lurking within.
A stunning new ghost story anthology featuring stories from bestselling authors Joe Hill, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay and M.R. Carey
The brightest names in horror showcase a ghastly collection of eighteen ghost stories that will have you watching over your shoulder, heart racing at every bump in the night. In “My Life in Politics” by M.R. Carey the spirits of those without a voice refuse to let a politician keep them silent. In “The Adjoining Room” by A.K. Benedict a woman finds her hotel neighbour trapped and screaming behind a door that doesn’t exist. George Mann’s “The Restoration” sees a young artist become obsessed with returning a forgotten painting to its former glory, even if it kills her. And Laura Purcell’s “Cameo” shows that the parting gift of a loved one can have far darker consequences than ever imagined…
These unsettling tales from the some of the best modern horror writers will send a chill down your spine like someone has walked over your grave… or perhaps just woken up in their own.
D. K. Hundt is an American writer with a BA degree in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing contemporary fiction and horror/supernatural stories, she likes to spend her free time working as a volunteer in her community, being a minion for her cat Simon, warding off carnivorous spiders, and throwing herself into and around the dark alleyways of Stephen King novels in search of inspiration. D. K. resides in California with her husband, and she is currently working on a horror novel titled, Cheveyo–a story about a young boy who goes to live with his grandpa on a reservation, and soon discovers that the malevolent creatures that lurk in the Okanogan Forest aren’t the only deadly secret the locals are hiding.
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