When Things Get Dark edited by Ellen Datlow review

While many of us may not have read too much Shirley Jackson, the recent Netflix series’ of The Haunting of Hill House and Bly Manor respectively, may have peaked your interest.

I have to admit I wasn’t a massive fan of the Hill House book, but really enjoyed the series, so was cautiously optimistic when reviewing this book. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about given the variation of stories, which are quite frankly mainly excellent.

Standout stories include opener Funeral Birds that focuses on a woman’s grief but turns into something much more sinister.

Elizabeth Hand’s For Sale By Owner is one story you will read in one sitting, given its compelling subject matter and intentional ambivalence to darker elements. This is the story of a group of housewives who like to hang out in abandoned homes for sleepovers, but they get more than they bargained for one night.

Quiet Dead Things from Cassandra Khaw tells the tale of a corrupt town covering up dark secrets, which plays with the idea of an unreliable narrator. Khaw does an excellent job and continually escalating the plot as we find out more, making it a compelling read.

Joyce Carol Oates’ Take Me, I Am Free takes a closer look at reluctant parentage, with potentially darker themes that may or may not be in the mother’s head.

The prolific Paul Tremblay contributes The Party which looks at a lesbian couple with a wide age gap that encounter trouble at a work party. Tremblay really packs in plenty of story to the short pages, and has vibes of Brian Yuzna’s Society.

Another notable mention is Josh Malerman’s Special Meal which really toys with the reader as a child and her parents play an unnerving game of cat and mouse at the dinner table.

Datlow saves the best story until last though with Kelly Link’s Skinder’s Veil which tells the story of a young student tasked with a looking after a mysterious property by his girlfriend. This story drips with dread and Link conjures up some really unnverving imagery that really jumps off the page.

When Things Get Dark basically has something for everyone, and is jam-packed with excellent stories, perfect for the cold and windy nights to come.

When Things Get Dark is released on 28th September 2021 by Titan Books.

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