My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A mix of flash and short fiction, Stories We Tell After Midnight from Crone Girls Press and editor Rachel A. Brune is an uneven mix, with several gems. The shorter pieces worked especially well for me, from the mesmerizing waves of “L’appel du vide” by M. P. Giddings to the coulrophobia-inducing “Uncle Charlie” by Christy Mann.
All the stories were dark and creepy, but sometimes I didn’t sense a bigger story or clear themes. I felt like those stories could have dug a little deeper. There were also stories with plot holes or unexplained plot points. These were generally the stories that hit too close to reality for my taste or dwelled on the horror without digging deeper for a larger truth, though maybe the larger truth is that sometimes evil just happens, without explanation or reason.
I really enjoyed “In Memoriam” by Elizabeth Donald and “Mirrors” by J. Summerset, precisely because they are well-written and reach for something deeper. “Gatekeepers” by Cristel Orrand has a lot to say, and does so with matter-of-fact but beautiful, spellbinding language. “Have You Come to Let Me Out?” by Tina Riddle takes a different but still very successful approach: ambiguous, opaquer details that underline the creepiness rather than hide it, even if I’m not quite sure what’s in that cabinet. This and other stories have great fairy tale-like techniques on display.
There’s a lot to enjoy here. I didn’t always have a sense of an overall arc between stories as the anthology progressed like I did in Brune’s other anthology, Coppice & Brake, but when a story works or a pairing is more obvious, it really works well. Enough works well that I’m eager to read the second installment of Stories We Tell After Midnight, coming soon!
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