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Dark Equinox and other tales of Lovecraftian horror by Ann K. Schwader, part 2

Custom Order
An au pair is hired to mind an unusual baby. Things happen in nice, understated fashion. This is a bleak vision of the calamitous damage that wanting can cause. Good.

Best Lines:
“Generally sanitizes Alex.”

“A truly frightening disregard for natural order.”

Uncomfortable expressions.”

Desert Mystery! Gas & Go!
A creepy little tale of horror in the desert. Good.

A disturbing tale of nonchalant amorality. Good.

Scream Saver
Careful what you click on. An okay tale of apprehension and dodgy characters.

The Water Lily Room
An ignored wife and mother slips out of her life as her fairly horrendous husband and children fail to notice. Good.

Best Lines:
“Nobody in this house needs her. And she knows it.”

“It is the voice of every friend she wishes she still had.”

The Death Verses of Yian-Ho
A poetry student uncovers evidence linking poets centuries and countries apart. Unbelievably horrible stuff happens as the study of prominent poets leads to an inescapable fate. Excellent.

Best Lines:
“Pretty weird folklore at that.”

“Hunger incarnate.”

“A tongue more ancient than any devised by mankind.”

Twenty Mile
The 1st Cassie tale about how she became the unexpected inheritor of the family ranch. This is excellent.

Best Lines:
“There was something under the earth of Twenty Mile.”

“Just thinking about what her relatives had been living above all these years made her queasy.”

Experiencing The Other
The 2nd Cassie story. It’s 2 years later and a group of new age nutters want to experience the weirdness at Twenty Mile. This was excellent as events take an unexpected turn.

Best Lines:
“Whatever you do, stay inside. This is shaping up to be a bad one.”

“What this storm was calling out of the Earth tonight.”

“Someone just wants to get in, and they don’t feel like knocking.”

Paradigm Wash
The 3rd Cassie tale; a month has passed and Cassie takes up amateur anthropology. She works at a very weird dig site. But weirdness soon turns to an endurance test in terror as unholy debauchery and depravity waits below. This was excellent and disturbing.

Best Lines:
“Those, at least, had been created by humans.”

“If he’s lucky, he won’t survive it.”

“And she didn’t like the implications of surface life.”

“From places we don’t even names for.”

“There’s a reason tourists aren’t allowed into those deep places anymore.”

Night Of The Piper
The 4th Cassie tale sees her volunteer at a shifty organisation. An ancient and unholy union comes to life. Good.

Best Lines:
“Reeked of ‘60’s-era social worker.”

“Some ancient cultures should stay buried.”

The Wind-Caller
The 5th Cassie tale. She is stranded by a snow storm and meets a woman whose ex fancies himself as Lucas Buck from ‘American Gothic’. This was good.

Best Lines:
“His size and bearing said town bully.”

“You really believe me?”
“I wish I didn’t.”

“Something older and darker.”

The Neighbours by Mary-Rose Hayes
A family buy a cheap house in Marin County (like in the movie ’Serial’) and admire the tacky orange rug in this 1978 novel. The husband has judgmental weird Catholic parents who love him and judge their younger psychic son. The husband gets a job aboard and fecks off to be feckless, useless and absent. The hopeless mother falls victim to the intensely manipulative emotional landscape perpetuated by the goddammed repugnant desperate housewives around her. Only the precocious child who has psychic powers can alert her psychic uncle that something is rotten in Marin. This was a good tale of horrible people, sinister neighbours, neglect, family dynamics, annoying kids and a hero who seems the type to shout at pigeons. This could have been fleshed out more though. Dated moments include: crew cuts are unusual, muu-muus, platforms and blue eye shadow being worn, petrol being expensive, a child is named Chetwynd, there is a Pooh Bear toy and sunglasses are a novelty.

Best Lines:
“Tacky old wall-to-wall carpeting.”

“But she’s not a hooker anymore, Dad.”

“You’ll be saving your profanity for the outside of this house.”

“Disparage its poor mileage as thoroughly unpatriotic.”

“The successful young suburban matron uniform of tailored polyester knits and bubbly hairstyles.”

“Regarded the act of dying to be in questionable taste.”

“She’s got a repellent personality.”

The Best Horror Of The Year Volume Seven edited by Ellen Datlow, part 1

The Atlas Of Hell
A creepy dark tale about an abominable artefact. Very good.

Winter Children
There is goings on at an old folk’s home. Good.

A Dweller In Amenty
A disturbing tale of a sin eater. Very good.

Outside Heaven
A tale of a small community that can no longer close its eyes to the dark aspect within. Good.


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