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High Tea in Grisly Garden

by Sean S. Redmond

Rating: ***

There are eight short stories in this collection by Sean S. Redmond. They encompass horror, murder, the supernatural, revenge and general weirdness.

I thought that there were two standout stories in this collection; the first and the last. The opening tale, Annihilated, was part post-apocalyptic and part Gothic American horror. It was incredibly atmospheric and creepy. The characters were nicely-observed without being stereotypical and the writing style, especially the dialogue, was very fluid.

Father Time, I found confusing and the narrative voice annoying. Karma Police began strongly. The premise of the story is something that is definitely believable and that made it disturbing. Personally, I found The 28th Hour juvenile. I thought the idea was good, but it just was not developed enough and ended rather abruptly. As with Father Time, I also found the comedic overtone of the narrator irritating. Left Turn was interesting. I did think it was overlong but it cleverly tapped into feelings that I think we all occasionally possess when our life goes awry due to a wrong decision combined with the actions of a stranger. It was thought-provoking and left me with a sense of unease and guilt.

Solely the Lonely was ghoulish, you knew what was coming with the aptly named Dr. Grieves but that did not make it any the less repugnant. My only issue would be with the Sister’s actions at the end; I did not find those believable given what she had witnessed. Satan’s Touch was the weakest. There were elements that just did not add to the main point and I actually thought it may have made a better story if the narrator and his wife had stayed at the Banquet. The final, Ekeelyo, was distressing. I thought the situation between Lena and Armando could have been explored further, although it was still deeply uncomfortable and I enjoyed the twist at the end, it was neatly done.

Overall, I liked the collection; they were an easy read and there were some good, disturbing tales. I did not always appreciate the humour that overlaid some of the stories and would have liked better distinction at times with the narrative voice. However, if you enjoy creepy weirdness written with a light touch then this book is recommended.

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