Sunday, April 28, 2013

Do You Have Any Unfinished Business?

From the Angry to the Sublime by Earl T. Roske is a collection of six short stories, each with a paranormal element.

The first story is 'Call of Duty' and follows Detective Saveman, preserving a crime scene until the cops arrive.

First Sentence:

"The house smelled of death -- violent, rotting death -- and detective Saveman was sick of it."

The second is 'A Family Reunion'. 

First Sentence:

"Standing at the road, looking at old man Kobb's place Billy Johansen began to feel like maybe this wasn't such a good idea."

Billy is a Boy Scout. His leader has told them to sell the birdhouses they previously made. Desperate to succeed, Billy tries the house of 'old man Kobb', the grumpy, old curmudgeon present in every book. But, when Kobb opens the door, Billy glimpses a room full of people behind him, all wearing old-fashioned outfits from multiple eras. Curiosity peaked, he and his friend Jackie investigate. 

In 'Pile Up' a young couple have just bought an SUV, and decide to test it out with a road trip from Boise, Idaho to Chicago. 

First Sentence:

"Patrick and Mary did what any young couple would do when they purchased their new SUV: road trip!"

Along the way, they find themselves lost at a crossroads, with a small, deserted town on the side of the road. They're deciding what to do, when the town comes to life. 

Story number four, 'A Place For Everything', follows Josh Butrow, a college professor, who has just bought his first house.

First Sentence:

"It was a small house, my first house, but I was proud of my purchase."

The house lay empty for over a decade, then was bought by a couple who redid the entire house. A week after moving in, they left, sold the house and never came back. It was only when Josh saw the ghost of a woman that he understood why.

'Duet' is the penultimate story. 

First Sentence:

"Mike Watergreen had not slept well."

Mike Watergreen is a violinist in the Spanaway Park Amateur Symphony. Currently touring France, he has a bad case of nerves as they reach the small town of Alleurs. Mike is used to being second violinist, a position he's comfortable with, but when the first violinist is suddenly called away and unable to perform, Mike is given the role. Trying to stave off a bad case of stage fright, he spots a woman in white during the rehearsal. It is then that he hears the rumour of a ghost, who supposedly haunts the hall.

The final story is 'Hallow Ground'. 

First Sentence:

"The sun pressed down upon the land with a heavy hand of heat."

Friends Jonah, Able and Luke are trying to strike gold. They're digging a tunnel to try achieve their goal. A tunnel big enough for all three to be in at once, with branches as support beams across the roof and stretching over 100ft. They're in the tunnel when an earthquake hits, trapping Jonah alone inside. Though he may not be as alone as he thinks.

These are not the usual ghost stories. Not one of the stories is chilling or terrifying. If you're looking for scary tales these are not them.  I'm not sure if it was the author's intention for this to be the case though. There are a couple of stories where I can see the potential for the unnerving or frightening, but these stories come away as far too tame for any spine-chilling moments. 

This by itself is not a problem. Ghost stories don't necessarily have to scare, but personally I found the stories lacking. Not just in thrills, but substance too. A couple were uninteresting and I found I'd completely forgotten about them before looking back at my notes. This is not to say all the stories are like this, however. I found a clear favourite in the last story and I really liked elements of the first, but that first story is so short, that the enjoyment is short-lived. 

I think a problem I had with this collection, was that there aren't really any surprises. If you label something as a ghost story, you're fully aware there are going to be ghosts. So when one actually pops up, it's expected. I know that the author probably wanted the 'element of surprise', but I found each story was predictable and I could easily guess the ending and 'twists' in the story. Perhaps if there had been more characters or depth to each story, I would've had a harder time figuring out who was the ghost, but as most of the stories contain between 2-3 main characters, there isn't really much mystery. Some of the stories just tell you who the ghost is and the focus is more on why they're there, but there's not enough depth to those stories to carry the ghosts. 

Myths and urban legends have always been close to my heart. I can't explain exactly why I enjoy them so much, but whatever it is wasn't in this book. At least, not for me. 

There are a few errors in the Kindle edition. I wouldn't normally mention it, but there are enough to be distracting at times. Not enough to stop me reading, but enough to be noticeable. 

A short book that doesn't necessarily offer anything particularly new or original, but does have enjoyable moments. For those who enjoy ghost stories without the scares or chills. 

Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own. 

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