The stories in Raymond Nickford's Cupboard of Skeletons vary in length, but each shares an amplified eeriness and characters who straddle worlds--natural, unnatural, supernatural--and defy usual classifications of normality. Some of the players in these suspenseful, macabre stories are probably insane, all are involved in relationships that hurt more than heal; often, ghosts from past discretions and indiscretions will not let them go.
A woman with a curious "sense of touch" feels the presence of an orphan in a weathered cookbook as she begins to shed her skin; a man sedates his stuttering son, who believes himself attacked by a yew tree, a professor continues a relationship with a young student, even after he suspects her involvement in the lurid death of a mentally disabled young man; a woman's experiences with a hypnotist leave her spinning in a gray, haunting landscape somewhere between imagination and reality.
One gripping aspect of Nickford's writing is the masterful way he creates a mood. I was put in mind of The Twilight Zone television series, the way each episode immersed the viewer completely in the created world, held suspended with the anticipation of a surprising twist or nuance. As a bonus, the writing itself sustains. The descriptions are lush and tangible, each setting a veritable stew for the story to marinate in; the ingredients: decay, regeneration, the corporeal and the cerebral. For example, a woman contemplates an old cookbook, which feels like dried skin, while her own skin begins to fester and peel, all the while recalling in fits and starts her husband's demise as her creepy mother carves a rather large, strange-smelling roast. Every sense I had was engaged as I read these stories and at times, I turned on an extra light to feel at ease. A unique read, something to raise goose bumps on a stormy night but also multi-layered enough to keep you thinking about it when the air clears.
--Mary Vensel White, author of The Qualities of Wood