Ill at Ease by Stephen Bacon, Mark West & Neil Williams
I always like to try and expand my reading horizons so, when offered, I jumped at the opportunity to read another short story collection. As I have said in the past I think that horror lends itself particularly well to the confines of the short story setting so I was keen to get reading. Ill at Ease contains three new stories of the macabre, each by a different author.
Waiting for Josh by Stephen Bacon – The first story follows a journalist, Pete Richards, as he travels from London to Scarborough. His life long friend is terminally ill after spending decades slowly drinking himself to death. Pete is forced to re-examine his childhood memories in an effort to discover the reason for his friend’s self-destructive behavior. The thing that struck me most about this story was how realistic and grounded it was. No flights of fancy, just a chilling secret and a guilty man’s desperate attempts to let the truth be heard.
Come See My House in The Pretty Town by Mark West – Another story that explores the bonds of friendship and what happens when they break apart. Two college friends catch up after many years apart. One of them appears to have the perfect life, but at what cost? With a deferential nod to The Wicker Man, this story started out all sweetness and light only to end on a particularly gruesome note. The final image will certainly stay with me for a while.
Closer Than You Think by Neil Williams – Unlike its predecessors this final story is the only one in the collection that features a supernatural element. A man picks up a second hand child’s car seat at the local tip. Soon afterward unexplained phenomena start to occur. There is a great build up in this story and you just know something terrible is going to happen. The author creates a palpable sense of dread that works well. I really like the idea that an inanimate object can be haunted, especially when it is something as innocuous as a car seat. If places can be haunted then why not objects too?
Overall Ill at Ease was a great little collection. I suppose, if I am honest, this is my only real issue. I wish that it were a bit longer. Weighing in at a scant thirty-eight pages all three authors prove themselves to be insightful storytellers. It would have been great to get another story from each of them. Perhaps if we’re lucky there will be an Ill at Ease 2? Looking at it in a more positive note, due to it’s size, it is very easy to rattle through the entire collection in one sitting.
Ill at Ease is available as an ebook via Amazon and Smashwords now.