Wednesday 1 June 2022

Dead Relatives

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Dead Relatives' by Lucie McKnight Hardy published by Dead Ink.
Lucie McKnight Hardy
Dead Ink

Iris has never left the big house in the country she shares with Mammy and the servants. When The Ladies arrive, she finds that she must appease her dead relatives. Other stories in this collection explore themes of motherhood and the fragile body, family dynamics and small town tensions, unusual traditions and metamorphosis.
Dead Relatives
is the highly anticipated, no-holds-barred short story collection from Lucie McKnight Hardy, and readers can expect more of the suspense and trepidation evident in her debut novel, Water Shall Refuse Them.
Not for the faint-hearted, Dead Relatives invites you behind closed doors, and will leave you wondering if it’s better that they’re kept shut and firmly locked.

A couple of years ago I helped out at the home town launch of Lucie McKnight Hardy's first book ' Water Shall Refuse Them' where I picked up a copy but embarrassingly have yet to dig into it. It looks really interesting and I've heard good things from friends who've read it but, and I'm sure you all have books on your shelves like this, I just haven't got to it yet.  This collection however barged it's way to the top of the pile and it made for an absorbing read filled with deliciously macabre stories.

The opening title piece tells a novella length story set in a secluded house where young women go to hide away until their unwanted babies are born and they can return to their lives without any inconvenient bumps or babies for that matter.  It's general vibe and over-riding oddness sets the tone  for the book which is beautifully reinforced by the following story, 'Jutland'.

I tuned out somewhat over the next few stories, 'Badgerface' was a bit obvious, 'Pickling Jar' felt like it owed too much of it's character to Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery' and 'Cavities' was just a non-event for me but 'Resting Bitch Face' however is much more satisfying with it's escalating domestic disharmony and eventual revenge as is it's immediate successor 'The Puckering' which takes a folktale-ish twist to a folk horror tale that feels like a Hans Christian Andersen fever dream.

Again, the book runs into a bit of a mire with a series of stories, 'Parroting', 'Cortona' and 'Chooks Don't Have Teeth' which didn't grab me but they're followed by a traditional horror tale 'The Devil of Timanfaya' which triggers a strong end to the book with the dystopian sci fi of 'Wretched' and the sibling rivalry of 'The Birds of Nagasaki'.

In all it made for an engrossing read that for me at least was bolstered by the longer stories which bodes well for me finally reading that debut novel that's waving at me from the shelf.

Buy it here - UK / US.


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