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Diaries of the Damned


Ivan Radev

Rating: *****

Diaries of the Damned is a collection of eleven short, mainly psychological, horror stories. All but one is written from first person perspective and each of them play with form and structure.

Diaries of the Damned is a relentless and cerebral compilation that really does tap into your own morbidity and dread. It does this because the writing is incredibly good and also because, in the main, the protagonists are understandable and their fears relatable. Fear of death, loneliness, the desire to revenge. All emotions that are often latent within and this book certainly does bring them to the forefront and, in doing so, makes the reader wonder if it could be them. Resultingly, it can become a little uncomfortable and not just from the horror aspect. Diaries of the Damned reminds the reader just how blurred the lines can be when we truthfully confront ourselves.

The first, Killer Beauty, sets the tone. The reader is never too sure how reliable the narrator is and this is a theme present in the majority of the stories. This is probably the most overt ‘horror’ of the stories. It’s visceral, gross and fast-moving. One Fear is clever; measured, detached and, on one level, provides commentary on abusive child/parent relationships. Like Killer Beauty before, the reader is not too sure who is the tormented and who is tormentor and as we begin to find out, it all becomes rather horrible.

Night Drive changes a little, the narrator is chatty, colloquial even and the driving reason (pardon the pun) for the narrative, takes the reader in a different direction to the other tales. It is slightly predictable but adds reinforcement to the link that all the narrators are, or feel, cursed in some way, either intrinsically or by an outside event/person.

The Evil Inside plays around again with narrator reliance but could have been developed a little further. Sixteen to Nine was, personally, the strongest; powerful, affecting and written with such beautiful, subtle poignancy.

The Transcript of Timothy Parker’s Interrogation gave a different form; all in dialogue. It worked well and, within a few exchanges, it was clear who was speaking. It veers into science fiction territory and I did find it a touch overlong but clever and amusing, nonetheless.

My Ex is Coming to Kill Me, Help!, took playing with reader perception and expectation to a whole new level. Diery was chillingly convincing, dark hints swell and grow as the narrative progresses before the writing descends into a near-psychotic stream of consciousness. It’s unnerving stuff.

The Prophet gives straightforward diary entries albeit a month apart, the writing is quite similar to Killer Beauty; there is physicality to the horror which makes you wince. Incident at the Toilet Paper Aisle is creepy, all the more so because of the humour overlay.

The final story Momento Mori is excellent. Cleverly constructed, poetic, chilling and tense. The premise of the story is not uncommon but Radev’s writing is so beautifully weighted, and structured for maximum impact without being over-engineered. It’s a fitting end to a superbly dreadful collection.

Diaries of the Damned is an accomplished collection of thought-provoking, intelligently written and immensely disconcerting short horrors. Highly recommended.

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