I’d been hearing a lot of talk about the new short story collection by Jason Parent. My only other experience with Jason’s work was reading the excellent psychological thriller ‘Seeing Evil’ in 2015. A few folk inside the writing community were giving it high praise so I decided to take the plunge.
The first story kind of caught me off guard a little in that it was a novella length piece about the murder of Abraham Lincoln. Now I know what you’re thinking, it doesn’t sound very horrific, but bear with me because Mr Parent has produced a period style story that will live long in the memory. I won’t give too much away except to tell you that this story told through the eyes of Major Henry Rathbone and how he struggles to come to terms with the events that unfold on that fateful night. This superb tale builds steadily as Rathbone slowly descends into madness. The writing here is excellent and it captures the period quite brilliantly. Filled with macabre images, creeping dread and a plethora of shadows reaching out to relieve Rathbone of his sanity, Rrathbone is a hell of a way to kick things off.
A complete switch in time and style for the next story in which a defence attorney suddenly finds himself on trial as a voodoo priest takes the stand. I wasn’t sure about this one until the end of the story which was quite superb and sent me back to the beginning to read it again. It’s rare that I read a story twice but I really enjoyed this.
Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ is one of the first novels I ever read. I went through a stage of reading classic literature a few years back. Books that had escaped me for whatever reason suddenly found their way into my hands and this particular one became a firm favourite. With ‘Dorian’s Mirror’ Parent takes the story and gives it a modern day twist that features model, barman, womaniser Dorian; a man obsessed with himself, suddenly starts seeing himself as a haggard old man, withering away due to the effects of time. It is something Dorian struggles to come to terms with and his life begins to spiral out of control. This is a short, punchy number and one that I enjoyed very much.
‘For the Birds’ is perhaps my least favourite of the collection. It features a home invasion where the owner and his carnivorous bird come face-to-face with two thieves. This story didn’t quite pan out the way I thought it would and whilst the tale was entertaining, I felt the previous ones were much stronger. Parent injects some welcome humour with this tale and it works as a nice shift to keep things from becoming too grim, but I have to be honest when I say I was really enjoying the darkness.
This leads us to the final tale in which a chef aboard a yacht is thrown into the water after becoming embroiled with the owner’s wife. I think this is a great story to finish off the collection. As our hapless chef is floating adrift in the water, you begin to feel the isolation and start to wonder about what lurks beneath the dark waters. The story doesn’t end at sea though. In fact, the finale of this tale is one of the most satisfying I have read in recent time. Parent shows he has a dark sense of humour again as our hungry chef finds he has one more meal to prepare!
‘Wrathbone and Other Stories’ is a fine and varied collection of horror fiction, showing a depth and originality that helps to keep the genre from becoming stagnant. Worth the price of admission for the novella length piece alone, Wrathbone’s other shorter stories are more much more than fodder to fill up the pages. This is indeed a fine piece of work.