Monday, 29 March 2021

A Trick of the Shadow

Wyrd Britain reviews 'A Trick of the Shadow' by R. Ostermeier from Broodcomb Press.
R. Ostermeier
Broodcomb Press

R. Ostermeier lives and works on the peninsula. This first collection of strange tales draws predominantly on the region’s folklore and history, yet also includes first-hand accounts of contemporary disquiet.
A Trick of the Shadow contains the extraordinarily unnerving ‘Object’ and the disturbing, Arthur Machen-inspired ‘A Tantony Pig’, as well as the novella ‘Bird-hags’, which in all truth might not be for you.

This book has been hovering around the edges of my attention for a while now but I finally dug into it on the recommendation of a friend and I'm very glad I did.

I'd gathered from what I'd seen that there was a Machen vibe and this proved especially the case in opener 'A Tantony Pig' which owes, an acknowledged, debt to that author and to his 'The Ritual' in particular.  It's an excellent play on the idea and easily finds on its own feet as a rather wonderful little strange tale.

Next up, 'Finery', is the story of a weaver and the dresses she makes for the women of the town; private clothes to be treasured and admired in secret as they speak to one's inner being.

'The Chair' I thought had the air of a 1970s 'Amicus' anthology episode to it or an episode of one of Hammer's TV shows with its mix of pseudoscience and dream horror - particularly inflicted on a child.

Less successful is 'Object' that for me seemed to be trying just a tad too hard to walk an Aickmanesque path.  It's eminently readable but for the first time in the book things did feel a tiny bit forced.

'The Intruder' continues with the Aickman style strangeness and is more successful in its telling of a man's terror at the consequences of a rash decision to embrace a new weight loss procedure.

We can again feel Machen's presence in 'The Bearing' a folk horror tale of an annual ritual whereby a series of coffins are carried around a town before the book ends with its longest tale 'Bird Hags' a nicely creepy amalgam of all the touchstones of the previous stories.

Now I've spent much of this review comparing it to other people and things which is something I generally try to avoid but here it felt unavoidable as Ostermeier is wearing these influences with pride which doesn't diminish what's here at all as the stories all work on their own merits and 'A Trick of the Shadow' proved to be a simply wonderful read.

Available from the publisher at the link above.

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