Around a dark corner by Jeani Rector
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Published by Turner Maxwell Books
First published 2008
Jeani Rector writes noir fiction in an original way. Don’t expect gore and axes to leap into your face from her pages but you will squirm with discomfort. Luckily, the gore is on her characters’ faces and yet it is under your skin that the real horror lurks. You could walk away but instead you will feel compelled to read on.
There are nine short stories and an intriguing novella – a ghost story in which a teenager reluctantly walks through a graveyard she finds the expected terror but not without being fascinated by it.
The anthology ranges from medieval to modern revealing that the years have yet to ease the horror potential life has to offer. One of my favourites is A Medieval Tale of Plague, possibly because I have researched the era (one of the fifteenth century plagues rather than the overdone 1665 Great Plague, so kudos to Rector for a wise choice of plague!). In this medieval plague we experience disease-ridden London through Elissa. She survives but succumbs to the horrors having to handle the rotten flesh of her dead employer. She enlists the help of a street urchin, who could be after her purse; so many bad things hide around the next corner. Although Elissa doesn’t succumb to the plague herself, the ordeal of moving around the pestilence is satisfyingly grim.
Horrorscope (what a brilliant title) is a neat story based on a man who takes his horoscope too literally and along with his hammer engineers an unexpected twist.
Lady Cop is a visual story with two main characters as patrol officers following the discovery of a body in the woods. American setting with an authentic feel. The lady cop is distinctly different from her initially sexist male partner but the two create a workable tension right to the end. Good job.
A clever yet understated story is Flight 529 in which we follow a passenger going through dire emotions as he faces ‘certain’ death as the plane plunges.
There’s more subtlety to this collection than in most horror anthologies. A modern penny dreadful with all the evil we’ve come to expect from Jeani Rector.