edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Available at Amazon.com
This anthology series has been a cavalcade of the macabre thus far, highlighting some of the absolute biggest names in horror. And kicking things off for this fourth volume is a guy who has been dubious by his absence until now, that being the legendary Clive Barker.
Now, when you bring up Clive Barker's name while on the topic of short stories, you will invariably wind up evoking memories of The Books of Blood. Those collections featured some grim, grizzly, and grotesque little masterpieces. So it wouldn't be out of bounds for you to suspect you might get a slice of that Clive Barker in this anthology, but the truth is you don't. With "The Departed," Barker offers something a bit quieter, but something equally as haunting. A mother, recently deceased, longs to hold her son in her arms one last time and with her ghostly companion at her side she is afforded one last chance on All Hallow's Eve. In one sense, the story felt kind of quaint coming from the guy who penned "Rawhead Rex." But as the story progresses and the romantic veneer of the afterlife is pulled back, it feels like vintage Barker.
For some good old fashioned gore, depend on Ray Garton's "Sammy Comes Home," though pet lovers be warned as the four-legged characters get put through the proverbial wringer in this one. This story had that same kind of hard-edged horror set in suburbia that made Robert McCammon's "The Deep End" so fun to read in the second volume of this series. In fact, this infectious tale may have been my favorite from this volume.
Lisa Morton's "The New War" was no slouch either, offering a bit of a spiraling psycho-thriller with a supernatural twist, in which an ailing resident in a hospital who is recovering from hip surgery and plagued by a shadowy succubus that is killing off his fellow patients one by one ... or is it? Very cool balance of the protagonist's mind being the battleground as much as the confines of his hospital bed.
Filling out the quintet of tales were Ed Gorman's "The Brasher Girl" and Heather Graham's "Creature Feature." While the latter was fun in its own creepy and cozy way, the former had the psychotic serial killer angle more tautly wrapped in its clutches. I am a sucker for a good imaginary friend story, though.
All in all, I can't say for certain Volume Four is the strongest offering yet, but it did not disappoint in the slightest and stacks up well with any of the other three books so far. A fairly good variety in the kind's of horror stories too, so if you're new the series this is a good jumping on point, and then if you like what you see go and grab the other volumes and enjoy.
And at the time of this posting there is a blog tour giveaway happening, courtesy of TLC Book Tours, with a winner walking away with an ebook copy of the anthology, as well as a gift card to a book retailer of their choice. Good luck!