Debut collection of short stories by indie Australian author Morgan Bell. A cross-section between dreams and reality. An examination of the horrors of life, with plenty of peering, in the form of vignettes, micro fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. Themes include fear, time, aging, anxiety, and jealousy. This collection of 15 stories contains bizarre medical conditions, industrious creatures, conniving cops, killers, dead bodies, a rescue mission, homoeroticism, nonchalant students, a secret garden, and the road to hell. Contains the stories: "The Tunnel", "Deep Water", "Shark Fin Soup", "The Dermoid Cyst", "Mrs. Jackson", "It Had to Be Done", "Granted", "The Package", "Strings and Ribbons", "Mini Play", "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", "Poppycock", "Telfer Speck", "Earth Mites", "Garsdale".
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This book contains 15 short stories, some of which are considered flash fiction or micro fiction. Stories included are: “The Tunnel”, “Deep Water”, “Shark Fin Soup”, “The Dermoid Cyst”, “Mrs. Jackson”, “It Had to Be Done”, “Granted”, “The Package”, “Strings and Ribbons”, “Mini Play”, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”, “Poppycock”, “Telfer Speck”, “Earth Mites”, “Garsdale”.
They are mostly suspense-filled pieces. Most of them I quite enjoyed. There are some real thoughtful gems in this collection, capturing in stark light the darker nature of us humans. My three favorite stories were The Dermoid Cyst, Earth Mites, and Shark Fin Soup. There were a few stories that flew by way too swiftly for me & were over so abruptly I was left bereft and wanting more. A few left me with too many questions. Yet for the most part this was a delightful collection of dark short stories.
The Tunnel: This one has a bit of a creepy feel to it. Dark tunnel, fast moving vehicle, dead of night. One has to wonder if one of the occupants of the car is a serial killer. 5/5
Deep Water: A brief pondering about death and what people truly fear about it. Since it referenced one of my favorite crime TV shows, I cracked a smile on this one. 5/5
Shark Fin Soup: Noel Fischer is checking the mail at his box when an animal rights activist approaches him about signing a petition to stop harvesting shark fins. I had to ponder this one a bit more before I got it, but then I really liked the correlation between Noel and the finless sharks. 5/5
The Dermoid Cyst: Amy and Dawn are chatting about dermoid cysts. Crispin, Amy’s man, is sitting back listening to the ladies work each other up. Then Crispin ends the conversation by offering up a calculated tactless solution – which I found amusing. Hmm… maybe I am a little twisted too? 5/5
Mrs. Jackson: The setting is a highschool art class room. Someone is a little delusional about reality, but is it Mrs. Jackson (art teacher) or Amber (student)? I enjoyed this one because I initially thought one thing but by the end, I was thinking the opposite. 5/5
It Had to Be Done: This one left me with a lot of questions. It starts off with a woman doing a home pregnancy test and then quickly moves to her calling the authorities about an illegal immigrant (someone who has overstayed their student VISA). The ending, which I won’t spoil, just adds more questions. 3/5
Granted: Uncle Adam is encouraging Ethan to donate his extra shoes to charity. Then it switches to Anthony Bowler, a man who insists are keeping the public park toilets clean… though I think he is secretly looking for something else. I’m not too sure what Ethan’s little story has to do with Anthony’s story. Still, I enjoyed the hidden agenda of Anthony in the second half. 4/5
The Package: Madeline wants to know what Jordan has in the box. It turns out to be a wedding pic Jordan had made especially for his niece (I think it was his niece). He had the bouquet preserved and arranged around a large picture of the bride and groom. Madeline seems quite transfixed by the image. It’s a good set up but then straggles off and there isn’t a real ending. Huh? 3/5
Mini Play: Clive likes his wine, luxuries, and little manly cosmetics. Tom declines his offer of a glass of wine. The two have a little pissing contest about cars, feet, and (oddly) socks. It’s a tightly written piece with characters established swiftly. However, it didn’t peak my interest nor give me a chuckle. 3/5
Strings & Ribbons: A very short, short piece. Hints of mystery, of wonder. It was interesting but way too short to thoroughly enjoy. 4/5
Tiptoe Through the Tulips: Ebony & Delilah are visiting a flower garden, one that has it’s own concierge. This little paradise quickly becomes a bug-infested allergy-inducing hell. Ha! 5/5
Poppycock: Louise & Betsy are kids chatting about how to get into Heaven. At least, I think they are kids. Pregnancy and driving are mentioned, so I wasn’t quite sure. There’s several silly place names like Balderdash Falls that mark the way to Heaven’s door. It was cute in a silly kind of way but ended abruptly. 4/5
Telfer Speck: Telfer wakes in the desert not knowing how he got there. He heads towards the river where Constable Skillion finds him. This is one of the longer stories in this collection. Constable Skillion outfits Telfer and sends him hiking out of town. Yet Telfer commits a few murders along the way, and the last of which is odd. Things get supernatural and circular. Perhaps Telfer is trapped in his own little hell. 5/5
Earth Mites: Hooray! A Scifi story! It was pretty cool. Damn mites! Perhaps they will infest the universe one day. 5/5
Garsdale: Garsdale is building a bone totem in some sort of canyon or crevasse. There’s a lost boy and searchers and a campfire. The tale is a bit creepy and full of suspense. I also liked the shear arrogance of Garsdale. And then the tale comes to an abrupt halt. I was left wondering if this was a spooky campfire story told from the inside out. 4/5
I won a copy of this book from the author (via the Lauren Dawes’ blog).
The Narration: Jon Severity has the perfect creepy voice for these stories. It’s a little rough, like that of a beloved uncle who has smoked a pipe since he was 15. And yet he is often telling these mini-mysteries where the main character may or may not be the murderer. His voice totally worked for those stories specifically. He really only had 1 female voice, that of a grown woman. It was fine for this collection. He didn’t really have a little kid voice. He does do regional accents quite nicely for the few times such were needed.