The first scary book I ever read was The Babysitter from the Point Horror series – remember those? Completely terrifying for a pre-teen bookworm like me but I was hooked. I’ve enjoyed thrillers and ghost stories every since – Stephen King and Tess Gerritsen being particular favourites. So when Debbie Stansil (you may know her from her blog My Random Musings) asked me if I’d like to review her new collection of short stories with a dark twist I leapt at the chance.
I should warn you right off the bat this is not a book for the fainthearted or the easily offended. I’m also aware that, due to the nature of my blog, a lot of my readers have experienced or are experiencing anxiety issues so I certainly don’t recommend something like this if you are already in a dark place (I didn’t even watch the news when I was ill). However, if you are a horror or supernatural fan and you’re looking for the perfect escapism then please read on.
Debbie’s book is made up of 27 short stories of varying length which makes is super easy to read. I’ve not always been much of a fan of short stories, I like to be able to get my teeth into a longer plot, but now I’m a working mum and blogger finding the time to read a whole novel is next to impossible, so short stories provide a great compromise. Plus, I personally believe the only genre that truly fits the short story structure is horror.
Twisted Tales is also great if you’re constantly being distracted by children needing snacks or toilet breaks because you can dip in and out of the book without getting completely lost. Some of the stories are so short you can be done before the kettle has boiled, whereas others are a more traditional short story length. I loved both styles and I was really impressed with what Debbie achieved in so few words.
“Twisted” is absolutely the right adjective for this collection as there is some very dark content here. Debbie pulls off some pretty morbid dialogue in first person narrative really convincingly and doesn’t pull any punches. The result is completely gripping. She is very skilled at keeping you guessing and crafting a believable plot twist, even in some of the very short pieces which are only a couple of paragraphs long. As a perpetual waffler (why use one word when you can use ten, eh?) I’m in awe of this talent.
Having a lifelong penchant for thrillers I consider myself pretty hard to fool however many of Debbie’s stories managed to completely surprise me which was thrilling, Date Night was a particular favourite for this. A lot of the content is playful in its dark nature but some, such as Blood, has a much more serious and unsettling message which can make for interesting but distinctly uncomfortable reading.
Debbie covers all manner of themes here from murder to the supernatural to our own day to day inner demons like guilt and self-doubt. She writes very lyrically, making the stories a pleasure to read. She demonstrates both creative and imaginative writing ability – especially evident in Done Deal, possibly my favourite of the collection – alongside a profound understanding of human nature in the more serious, shorter pieces.
I’ll reiterate this is not a book that is going to suit everyone’s tastes but if you’re looking for a quick, heart-pounding read, and aren’t afraid of a little macabre, then please check out Twisted Tales. You can buy your copy here, and please go and support Debbie on Twitter & Facebook too as she also writes a brilliant blog.