DEAD LETTERS: EPISODES OF EPISTOLARY HORROR edited by Jacob Steven Mohr (BOOK REVIEW)
What a year it’s been for anthologies.
For years, I’ve read creepy short stories before bed. From MR James to EA Poe, I moved up to Weird West, Frankensteinian lesbians (yep, really) and now this…
I’m struggling to find a pithy descriptor, because this is worth so much more.
This anthology is literary Found Footage. Letters (akin to Dracula), random documents (House of Leaves), emails and text messages (me, this morning).
Every style is its own. An ordinary person, communicating with another via mundane means, which quickly escalate into absolute awfulness. This is made even worse because – like The Blair Witch Project – once the story is done, that’s it. We have no idea what happened. It was probably messy.
Quite a few of these stories had me pausing after they finished, just so I could take a breath and regroup. This isn’t hyperbole. From a slow start, to full speed, then a sudden STOP! – which somehow makes the horror hit even harder. While the tale is ended, it’s not necessarily resolved.
The stories here are prime examples of how skilful horror can be worse when it’s unseen. What’s off the page is far, far darker than what’s explicitly shown. It’s not just Lovecraftian lack-of-description (‘it was SO SCARY that I can’t describe it’); this is just described enough. Usually by someone who is Very Scared Indeed.
A posthumous letter to a loved one, with a final task to find their legacy. An optimistic wagon train led by a charismatic stranger. Emails from a woman stuck in an office, with something in the kitchen. Lost radio episodes. Vikings.
All so unique and every one had me looking up the author to see what else they’d written.
This is a masterful anthology, and is absolutely one of my Books of 2023, my Book of November for Fantasy Hive. I urge you to seek it out.
Just don’t read it before bed.
You can find out more about Dead Letters HERE