Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror Collection THE DEAD BOXES ARCHIVE by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sue has been reading The Dead Boxes Archive by John Leonard

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The seven stories included in this anthology of the macabre are:

  1. Call Drops
  2. Doggem
  3. A Plague of Pages
  4. Night Service
  5. Burntbridge Boys
  6. Linger
  7. The Screaming Mike Hawkins Story

These are clever and interesting stories filled with wit and intelligence. I enjoyed the mentions of the Wombles and the New Musical Express and references to other popular culture peppered throughout the stories, including songs by Snow Patrol & Nelly Furtado. These references acted as a kind of light relief amidst the delectably disgusting and relentlessly repulsive images that kept getting put in my head by John F. Leonard’s ghastly descriptions of fearful, revolting episodes and horrific circumstances. Episodes and circumstances  brought about by a character’s possession of one of the Dead Boxes of the title.

Themes within these stories include murder, infidelity, poisoning, and plenty of twisted madness. The stories are populated by unpalatable people made fearsome and horrific by the events of their lives. For example, in Doggem, childhood rejection of uncaring parents and personal greed leads to murderous, poisoning tendencies. Infidelity and double crossing by spouses and business partners lead to murder in Call Drops and A Plague of Pages.

The Dead Boxes Archive is a book full of victims. Victims of spousal infidelity, parental hatred, financial double crossing, suicide, being on the wrong bus or at the wrong football stadium at the wrong time. In most cases these victims of life and society turn the tables and make murder victims of their oppressors. We could ask if these murder victims therefore bring their fates upon themselves –  but no one deserves such horrific fates as those dreamed up in these gruesome stories.

Many of these despicable characters have in common their lack of respect for human life:

“On the whole, humankind were a pretty motley crew. Loathsome, grubby creatures who invariably descended to the lowest level and wallowed in the filth they found there.”

I particularly enjoyed the tongue in cheek wit from a writer of horror:

“Some things didn’t bear contemplating, there was already enough horror in the world without inventing more.”

I also enjoyed spotting the connections between the stories. The geographical locations of Bledbrooke and the eerie wooded ‘beauty spot’ of Cenet Chase are mentioned multiple times throughout the collection. The Salton Marsh antique shop was mentioned in Call Drops and then echoed in A Plague of Pages.

Noel Bayley the private detective is run over and killed in Call Drops and later referred to in A Plague of Pages to name just a few.

My favourite story in the collection was Night Service in which a hapless young man and his new girlfriend take the night bus back to her place but the journey quickly becomes even more terrifying than the night bus journeys I remember taking from Trafalgar Square in the early 90s.

All in all I enjoyed my foray into the world of the Dead Boxes. Heaven forbid any of us should do anything to cross someone in possession of one of these accursed items – or get on the wrong bus, for that matter!

4 stars.

Book description

The Dead Boxes Archive is a chilling collection of short horror stories and horror novellas. Together for the first time in one volume, seven tales from the critically acclaimed Dead Boxes series.

Dead Boxes are scary things. Wonderful and dreadful secrets hiding themselves in plain view.
On the surface, they often appear to be ordinary, everyday objects. Items which are easily overlooked at first glance. Perhaps that’s just as well because the Dead Boxes are as far from ordinary and everyday as you can get. They hold miracle and mystery, horror and salvation, answers to questions best not asked and directions to places better left unfound.

This collection offers an insight into some of these delightfully eerie articles. A stunning omnibus of old school inspired horror, the brooding and ominous variety. Not to say that there isn’t a little gore and gruesome in the mix. But one of the beauties of horror is that it comes in many forms. Blood and guts don’t need to be stars of the show for a story to be dark and disturbing. Something that will stay with you long after the reading is done.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview of mild #horror The Shadow Beyond by Daniel Reiner

The Shadow Beyond (Shadow Saga)The Shadow Beyond by Daniel Reiner

3.5 stars

The Shadow Beyond is a mild horror set in Massachusetts in the early 1900s. It is the story of Robert Adderly.

While studying mathematics at university, Robert’s professor asked him to help with some complex calculations. They were required by archaeologists, and involved links between the stars and recent discoveries in Egypt.

Robert also fell in love, but on the night of his marriage proposal his fiancée Elizabeth died. She was consumed by unworldly flames; the only remains of her entire body were a pile of ashes.

Horrified by Elizabeth’s death, Robert’s inquisitive mind wants answers. A trail leads him to a curious bookshop and its owner, Andrew. Robert shared a boarding house with Andrew’s grandfather, the same house where Elizabeth died. Andrew’s next revelations make Robert question his religious upbringing as he is introduced to ancient texts and the world of dark magic.

As the story evolves, the author weaves a tale drawing together the science of mathematics and mystic unearthly beings. The element of horror builds slowly alongside Robert’s thirst for knowledge, but where will the path end?

I thought the first half of the book was the best. The second half became complex, reflecting the mass of mixed material about mystical beings and an existence beyond our human understanding. Some parts I questioned: Robert conveniently meets up with Vincent, a childhood friend. In the intervening years, Vincent has travelled abroad and become versed in ancient texts and languages, and plays a large part in the story. I was not convinced that someone of Robert’s age would have the extensive knowledge he has. Overall this book might suit readers who don’t want too much gore from their horror. I believe the Shadow Saga series will continue.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

“I am not dead; nor am I fully alive. The intangibles of thought and memory are nearly all I have in common with the man I once was. Half-consumed, I sit upon the floor, a biblical leper…”

What brought the young Robert Adderly to this wretched point? A graduate student at Miskatonic University during Prohibition, he had led an average life—up to the point when his fiancée, Elizabeth, was reduced to ashes before his very eyes. In his quest to find answers to the riddle of Elizabeth’s demise, Robert is drawn into an alien and dangerous world. A burning need to get to the bottom of the mystery opens his eyes to a reality much larger and more dangerous than he could have ever imagined, where magic is just another science, and his system of beliefs is challenged…and toppled.

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