Writer: Syd Moore
Publishing House: Oneworld Publications
Date of Publication: October 3rd 2019
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Draw in close, throw another log on the fire if you will. It’s a chill night. I shall just add some of that coal. Now, this may take quite a while so settle in. All right? Then I’ll begin.’’
‘’There are some things you have to find out for yourself. Or else what’s the point of the journey?’’
Septimus and the Shaman: An elderly gentleman reminisces of his time in Iceland during the Second World War and his strange meeting with a Sami shaman.
‘’Her first was Sooty. A rather unoriginal name, it was true, but she had never anticipated having a pet. Not least a cat. She had thought them rather cruel beasts, aloof and haughty and cold. Too independent by far and fickle with their affections. Much, she thought, like herself.’’
Snowy: A very touching story of an elderly lady and her musings on cats and their peculiar nature. If the ending doesn’t break your heart, you are more heartless than I am…
‘’Though locals would avoid the house at all costs, for they said, and still do, that on dark nights like this you could hear the dead ones’ cries in these here lanes leading to the house.’’
The House on Savage Lane: Accurate title is accurate. This is the wild, nightmarish story of an unfortunate young woman and her twin sons, one of which develops extremely particular instincts. Pure twisted perfection!
Easily Made: Two idiotic social workers commit a terrible mistake in their ridiculous effort to transport cats to a so-called ‘’refuge’’. I mean, if this is how they treat pets over there…
In the Bag: A hilarious story about a tormented husband, his bossy mother-in-law and a very opinionated vacuum cleaner.
Jocelyn’s Story: An obnoxious, spoiled, vain woman gets what she deserves for her ruthlessness and greed in a story that reminded me of the finest British horror movies produced in the 70s.
Death Becomes Her: A young police officer is cursed with the ability to see Death at the shoulder of his future victims. The ending of this story is phenomenal!!!
‘’At that moment the wind chose to increase its strength and the moon, which had been nearing full and shining, was obscured by turbulent clouds that had appeared from nowhere. The gloom thickened. An eerie silence crept over the land.’’
She Saw Three Ships: Every year, on the Feast of All Angels, the villagers are faced with retribution for the crimes committed by their ancestors. An unaware tenant has to cope with the repercussions. A marvellous story that makes use of the horrible crimes of the shipwreckers.
‘’The streetlights, I noticed, were shaped like crucifixes, their lights fixed either side of the cross. They pointed firmly out to sea, forming a linear barrier to any unholy visitors who might consider sailing in. Or perhaps, I considered later, to keep them in.’’
‘’The landscape felt besieged and anxious. Tense. Like it was waiting for something to happen.’’
Madness In A Coruña: Such perfection this story was! A haunting trip to Coruña provides the backdrop for a tale steeped in Galician lore, legends, myths, frenzy and omens. The best stories are the ones that show little and reveal even less. When your mind receives an invitation to decipher and decide. This tale is the epitome of eeriness.
Christmas Eve at the Witch Museum: A very entertaining story set on Christmas Eve as the Witch Museum is all decked out and ready for the great night. Pagan rituals, commercial habits, lore and Spring-heeled Jack in a wonderful mixture. And love. Let us not forget love…
‘’A beast, perhaps a wolf cries in the distance and I am pulled back into the fields. In the moonlight they gleam, though I cannot see the beast on them. He may be near, or he may be far. The blanket of snow does muffle the howl, so I cannot tell. But, peculiar now, I have no fear. Not of the beast. No.’’
‘’For how long, I wonder, have I walked like this – barefoot over snow?’’
Barefoot Through the Snow: The spirit of a wrongly- convicted ‘’witch’’ residing in the Museum returns to reclaim her children. A moving, harrowing confession.
A Christmas Carole: A member of Parliament is visited by apparitions of old friends and relatives as a warning to alter her stance in life before it becomes irreparable. A beautiful rendition of Dickens’ classic.
Naturally, I didn’t have the patience to read one story every day. I finished this collection in two days and it was wonderful. There are no ‘’duds’’. In fact, I had a hard time to decide which story was the finest. I may sound like a broken record but books like this one make us more and more aware of a deliciously frightening, darker side of Christmas.
‘’Suddenly Essex, with its witches and assortment of oddities, seemed the most wonderful place in the world.’’