Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Haunted Tea Set and Other Stories, by Sarah Jackson

I've dashed through this short, 112-page book of 20 strange, unsettling and enthralling tales published two months ago. The collection takes its name from a short story that you can read in full for free on the Bone Parade and which I massively recommend. It so completely got me that I immediately read it to the Dr, while we were away on a trip to mark our 20th wedding anniversary last week. A number of Jackson's other stories are also available via the links on her website

Most of the stories in this collection are very short, some just a paragraph, most just two or three pages, and yet they're packed with vivid, evocative strangeness. There are eerie hauntings, there are ordinary witches going about their lives, and more than one story involves someone returning to the community where they grew up where all is not quite right. The strangeness is grounded in well observed, concisely depicted reality, so tangible and effective.

Opening story "Greenkeeper" felt like traditional horror of the sort I'd seen many times before until, after just two-and-a-half pages, it offered a killer last line. "The Haunted Tea Set" follows, and by then I was hooked. That story, and "Subsidence" later on, offer something extraordinary - not just a sense of the ordinary horrors we live with, but the promise of hope and healing.

Sarah Jackson also edits the quarterly short story zine Inner Worlds.

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