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The Vengeful Dead

by John James Minster

Rating: ****

The Vengeful Dead is a collection of 11 short horror stories, which, overall, as the title implies, have the connecting theme of revenge from beyond the grave.

The Vengeful Dead is an addictive and readable anthology. The book will not change your life, but it will afford you a solidly entertaining, full-throttle, gore-laden few hours, and I enjoyed galloping through it.

The stories do occasionally lack depth. However, there are contrasts in form and perspective and the acts of vengeance are certainly inventive and frequently loaded with a tongue-in-cheek, dark comic energy.

Notwithstanding, the level of horror, sex, and gruesome mayhem will probably not be for all readers, there is a strong sexual element running through most of the narratives and Minster does provide a caution to this effect.

The opener, Snuff, has an old-school, 80s schlock-horror vibe, and the second, Book of the Dead, is nastily creepy. Minster happily and knowingly peppers his stories with several traditional horror tropes albeit twisted in some cases. The reader is immediately aware of this and it makes The Vengeful Dead a reassuring and often, amusing, reading experience.

Son of a Ghoul was personally, the strongest, along with Corpiscle. Magic 8 Ball was neatly done if a touch obvious. Magus was an interesting premise and the beginning was deceptively well-written.

There are a few that are shamelessly far-fetched and visually over-the-top. Family Plot being one of those redolent of a low-budget, B-movie, hammer house of horror pastiche, but in a good way.

Yoyo the Clown was unpleasant but required more focus. Dog was a departure in tone and the slightly archaic tenor, certainly in the first few pages, was a nice contrast. Minster takes the reader to the 17th century Venezuela with Casilda and I sense he had a lot of fun writing this one, playing with post-medieval symbolism and stereotypes.

The final story, Death Macabre has a more serious aspect. It is not horror so much, as otherworldly and surreal. Further, there is no ghastly retribution in this tale but quite the opposite. I did wonder if its placement in the collection was correct, but upon reflection, and given the subtle shift in spirit, pardoning the pun, I think it was the right tale to conclude with.

If you’re relatively broad-minded and fancy some no-holds-barred gory horror, The Vengeful Dead is well worth a look.

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