The Old Knowledge and
Other Strange Tales
by Rosalie Parker
The Swan River Press
"It took some time for
Geraldine to become fully awake and a few seconds more, before she
understood that she had been dreaming again& Why did she still feel
that there was something familiar about the dreams? Something she
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Following the steps of her partner RB Russell, Rosalie Parker, editor
and co-owner of Tartarus Press, has decided to try her hand at dark
And, like Russell, Parker has chosen to stay on the quiet side of the
horrific and the ghostly, creating subtly disturbing tales of unease,
eight of which are now assembled in her debut collection.
If you like low-key dark tales, this is the book for you.
The title story, The Old Knowledge,
ostensibly about archaeological excavations, is actually an atypical
tale of witchcraft, while the captivating Chanctonbury Ring
is the report of a strange incident befalling an archaeologist
exploring ancient sites in the English countryside. The story leaves
behind the obscure, disquieting feeling of an unsolved mystery.
rose and, motioning me to stay where I was, crept into the enclosure&
After a minute or so she reappeared, now carrying a large wicker basket
by its two handles. She put it down on my feet. To my astonishment,
lying inside and wrapped up warmly in a plaid blanket was a sleeping
baby."The picture is a compelling, short piece revolving around an oddly haunted drawing.
is a warning. You are meddling with something you do not understand.
The picture must be returned from whence it came, otherwise youll be
held responsible. It should not be displayed. HEED THIS WARNING OR
SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES."
Spirit Solutions reports a case of poltergeist:
answer is in your hands. There is an unquiet one among you and the
spirit feeds on it. The spirit will not rest until you have found the
one and soothed away its energies or expunged it from your hearth. Only
you will know the solution. Seek and ye shall find. Be careful. We see
danger."In the end the story offers less than what it
seems to promise in the beginning, but does manage to unsettle the
In the Garden,
selected for the latest Best New Horror volume, is a fine, clever
piece casting a new, worrisome light on the innocent hobby of
gardening. Parker first delivers a lesson about gardening:
is a creative pastime, but the result is always a work in progress;
unlike a painting or a piece of music, a garden is never fixed in
time" but later on her sentences acquire another, rather sinister
To me, however, the best stories are others. One is The Cook Story, an excellent werewolf tale, cunningly disguised as a mainstream piece with an unexpected, final denouement.
decide to prepare the venison very simply& Im going to pan fry the
steaks and make a simple herb jus & 'I think I would like to help with
the herb sauce. I will pick some herbs for the table, then we can
sprinkle them over the food. She seemed very dreamy and far away, a
little-girl-lost. I felt suddenly, without knowing exactly why, very
sorry for her."The other one is The Rain,
a longer, atmospheric tale depicting, in an unassuming but
insightful narrative style, the ways of a small rural village
where a woman is spending a short break from the city troubles. Subtly
unnerving and purposely, deliciously ambiguous.
"The place was
beginning to give her the creeps, and she would have to make an effort
to think about everything rationally. If her car was not fixed then she
would just have to walk to the next village, however far it was. There,
hopefully she would find a telephone box&"In short, Parkers
debut collection appears very promising, especially for those who
favour steady, well crafted prose hinting in soft tones at the
darker side of reality, rather than describing in garish colours
the horrors lurking around the corner.