As is often the case with short story collections, I connected with some tales more than others, and I have no doubt you’ll have your own favourites. On the whole, I felt it was an interesting and varied anthology.
My favourite stories were “The Tower”, about an exhausted care-worker who is asked to visit an old woman in a reputedly haunted tower block; “Dead Men at Dead Man’s Cliff”, a bittersweet and unique tale, and “Love and Other Chainsaws” which is a haunting story and fully displays Addam’s mastery of her craft. In my opinion, these three stories alone are worth the price of the collection.
A warning may be useful for some readers: these stories can be graphic and harrowing and come without trigger warnings. The first two are woven together by themes of bad parenting and paedophilia, glamourising neither but making this reader so uncomfortable that I worried for the author and wondered what trauma might have caused such obsessions. Let’s just say, this collection, while well written, is not an easy read, although the art adds a childlike quality to the book.
“Jimmy’s Fucked Up” read like a brilliant and tense revenge story until the disappointing end; and “He’s Behind You” gave me Requiem for a Dream vibes. It begins in a beautiful setting and suggests that Gemma has survived, at least for now, before delving back into the horror of her recent life. Lines like: “As she’d smiled up at Jack in her too-small school uniform and swore to never read again, Gemma would have never imagined that real life meant being a whore and living in constant fear of shadows” evoke a despair which thankfully few of us know.
Others are political in nature and explore gender and sexuality. “The Rubies” is set in a Nazi dystopia. It contains hard-hitting SA and torture scenes, and the descriptions of brainwashing highlight the precarious nature of truth. “Love and Dead Things” mentions the pandemic as one of the reasons for social decay along with flammable cladding and council cutbacks—very contemporary concerns. Such details make Addam’s work all the more appealing and relevant.
“Beware” is a strangely cute story about murder that the author claims is based on real experiences, and “In Memory Of” is a quirky tale about a woman (who resembles a kinky Mary Poppins but is definitely not Disney approved) who visits the sort of family that might make Fred and Rosemary West gasp in horror. “The Blue Dress” was probably my least favourite of the stories, but the collection makes a comeback with the final tale, “Judge Dead”, which recounts a spin-doctor’s trial after the zombie apocalypse.
To summarise, I would recommend checking this out when it is released on April 8th, 2022.