A shocking event on an evening train only revealed by hypnosis, a man driven to extremes to rid himself of nightmare neighbours, and a rural driving holiday stopped in its tracks by a mythical creature. Just three of the 13 Dark Tales, inspired by macabre urban myths and sinister folklore, in this first collection.
Read them in the dark hours when they might call to mind a disturbing story you can’t quite place or a strange shape glimpsed from the corner of your eye; things you dismissed as too fantastic to take seriously but left nagging doubts, nonetheless. Some of them may be true.
Terence Vickers’ Review: 5-Stars
Thirteen tales that will send a shiver through you, with a surprise in every story with endings reminiscent of the Twilight Zone. All delivered with a British flavour and sprinkled with a few very British idioms, like “daft as a box of frogs.”
Great entertainment for those who like stories loaded with suspense, thrills and chills. I could not single out any one story as the best as they are all so well written. Individually I would give each story 10/10. A bit of folklore, a dash of science fiction and government agents that aren’t what they seem, make every story as creepy as any Hitchcock movie.
WARNING: MAY KEEP YOU AWAKE LONG AFTER YOU CLOSE THE BOOK.
The cover is perfect for this book. if you want a hint of what’s in the book just look at the cover. The formatting, punctuation, etcetera are technically excellent. The stories flow at a pace that keeps the reader engaged. The characters are lifelike and distinct individuals. They are so well described, with just a few words, you might recognize them if you saw them on the street. Their dialogue suits their nature, from the sweet pretty ones to the rougher ones who use the “F” word a total of twelve times, in all.
There are no “cookie cutter ” characters, no titillating erotic scenes, the cursing is natural and not overdone, and there really are no happily ever after ending. Suspense with some pools of blood and a bit of gore is the spice in these stories. A good mix of horror and thriller make this a wonderfully creepy collection of well-produced short stories.
Diane Andersen’s Review: 5-Stars
The title says it all. From the “unsettling portent” of the number thirteen to the promise of “dark tales”, Mark Martin has woven together a chilling set of urban legends and classic horror tropes into fresh contemporary versions for a whole new generation of readers.
I like a good old-fashioned ghost story, preferably told around a campfire on a dark moonless night. These deliver that kind of punch with every tale. Like the Sultan in Sheherezade, or the proverbial teen heading down the dark passageway to check out a strange noise, I was that reader who couldn’t stop at one story. The lure of the next compelling title promised something even more deliciously sinister and I couldn’t read on.
It has been a long time since I felt this way about a collection of horror stories. Most try to be scary, while actually resorting to silly monster tropes and gratuitous violence and gore. As Martin himself states in his forward, “I have avoided violence and gore, on the whole, in favour of more enigmatic themes.”
His “enigmatic themes” boil down to psychological horror on par with Alfred Hitchcock suspense, Twilight Zone or the recent Black Mirror TV shows. Each one packs a punch with an ending that leaves the reader chilled and thinking about it for days to come. The fact that Martin is a British writer, setting all of his stories in England, lent a more eerie chill to it as well as an authentic feel, with the smattering of British slang and customs casually woven in. It was like wandering into an old brooding mansion and finding a book of tales to curl up with, perhaps in a paneled library, beside a glowing fire on a dark and stormy night.
In “Billy No Mates” a young boy finds friendship with a neighborhood kid who isn’t all he seems to be. When his mother discovers the truth about Billy’s past, it serves to put her own son at risk for a mother’s worst nightmare.
“The Headmaster Ritual” still has me scratching my head over where that ending came from and who exactly is behind the horror? A demon? Or the darkness that exists within us all? Read it and let me know what your take is!
“Turnip Head” takes an age-old campfire tale I remember from Scouts, that tells of a “malkin” or demon disguised in the form of a scarecrow. But this one puts him in a contemporary British setting.
These and more would make for excellent reading fare at a scary storytelling event around Halloween or any time you are in the mood for some spooky tales.
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