"Sometimes, in her head,
Eleanor would hear the music. It reminded her of her father and she
always wondered how a man who butchered meat could perform such lovely
music. How could the hands that cut the flanks of cows and the
shoulders of pigs play Vivaldi’s concerts so expertly?"
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
The true horror is life. That could be the bottom line of Michael
Kelly’s extraordinary fiction. In his horror stories you won’t find
vampires, werewolves, zombies. The real monsters are hidden in
ourselves, gnawing at our souls. The scariest things in this world are
the cruel passing of time, loneliness, failures and the inability to
give and receive love.
In his Introduction to this collection Gary A Braunbeck - a
fellow writer who shares Kelly’s sensitivity and his melancholy view of
human existence - points out the musical aspects of the
author’s crystalline prose and the beautiful images he contrives to
create. Thus, this book is a symphony, constituted by different themes
and musical phrases.
is a gentle story about ghosts in an old mirror, unhappy childhood and
solitude, while A Song
of Knives is the vivid, compassionate portrait of a
pathetically ugly, fat woman, the only daughter of a butcher with a
passion for Vivaldi.
In the atmospheric A
Haunt of Hammers, a spectral Prague is haunted by the
spirits of the dead and in the exotic Basking in the White of the
Midnight Sun the quest for everlasting life turns out to
be a tragic joke.
A Blue Hand
Reaching is yet another tale imbued with sadness and
desperation, where life is a burden to carry day in day out, told in a
superb narrative style.
The well crafted characters in Wolves
and Angels are a dying old woman and her distant daughter
, come to pay her a final visit. The story perfectly blends the
intimate sense of sorrow with the chilly atmosphere of the Canadian
countryside during the winter season.
Among a bunch of excellent tales, there are two veritable
gems. One is Winter
Birds an outstanding piece of terrible beauty, a story of
tragedy and redemption graced by a perfectly measured style.
"The man stands, digs in his pocket and fishes out a ring of silvery
keys. The keys jangle mutely, like frozen chimes. He wonders what they
will unlock. A half smile creases his face. The man steps out on a icy
path, walks towards his building, his new home, past the trees and
their busy winter birds."
The other one is the title story Undertow, a
masterful tale featuring a man trying to come to terms with the grief
and the guilty feeling caused by the tragic death of his little boy.
"Scotty’s hair, once fine and blond, was black and clotted with
seaweed. His eyes were closed, but his mouth was open and a foul reek
emanated from that grim rictus. His skin was spongy and peppered with
pale pink bite marks, as if all the creatures of the sea had taken a
piece of him."
As they say, life sucks and then you die. Is there anything more
horrible than that? Yet, despite Kelly’s pessimistic view of the human
condition, here and there you can perceive little sparks of hope, dim
sources of lights which can brighten a little bit the darkness which
|Mario Guslandi lives in Milan,
Italy. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews)
dark fiction in English, his book reviews have appeared in a number of
genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, The SF Site,
The Agony Column and Horrorwold.