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I hadn't come across Jeremy Dyson's stories before, but this volume has made me eager for more. These stories are all gems, perfect in pacing, chilling in tone, each conveying perfect horror or weirdness.

Many are stories of outsiders, people on the edge - a lonely boy who self harms, a bullied schoolboy who explores the cellars of his school and finds more there than he expected. in "Isle of the Wolf" David Spotpal builds a property empire but can never overcome his childhood fear of violence. Eventually he devotes his fortune to buying an island where he can construct a fortress and live alone. In "The Challenge Club" accountant Justin Crabbe, who has felt himself on the outside of things since a disastrous incident when he was 7, yearns for the glamorous life to be found in the eponymous Club. Eager to please, to fit in, he demeans himself for the shallow celebrities who are members. Crabbe, like several of the protagonists, is tiring of his partner - similarly, Charlie Thoroughgood in "The Coué" (another outsider, running a seedy mail order business from a decaying council estate) resists his girlfriend's plans to have a baby, obsessing instead over a different child.

The best, for me, is "Bound South" where the setting in which the story is told to the narrator (in best MR James tradition, it is over a meal, with the fire repeatedly stirred against the winter cold - but not in an ancient college room) and the story itself mesh perfectly.

I only have two quibbles - the blurb for the book (cited above in the Amazon description) describes Yani in "Yani's Walk" as "near-autistic". As described in Dyson's story, Yani's another socially awkward outsider, like Crabbe, but there's nothing autistic or near autistic about him. And in "Bound South" the story refers to lettering two metres high - in the early part of the 20th century this reads slightly wrong. But those are really just quibbles, this is a fine book and now I have another author to catch up on!
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on 17 June 2009
Hand on heart, I'm already a fan but a critical one and I'm so pleased to say this collection of stories is superb. Not a single dud. All written with the same musical style and sense of surprise and twist. You will enjoy each one and each one will leave you thinking deeply about yourself and about the world.
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on 26 April 2010
If your tastes encompass the bizarre, the sinister and the downright strange then this is the collection for you. The range of stories on offer here, whilst cleverly imagining a diverse selection of odd characters and events, cohere well into a unified and satisfying whole, and thus achieve one of the main assignments of any collection of short stories.
The author also manages to incorporate a sufficient degree of tension and suspense into most of them, and this makes for an enjoyably unsettling reading experience. Only in one or two of the tales does the author stray into formulaic territory, and rarer still does he lapse into revealing too much detail in the writing.On the contrary, this writer patently revels in the knowledge that the more space he has left for the reader, the greater the likelihood he has of producing some genuinely creepy material and generating a high degree of psychological unease.It would be against the true spirit of a review to lead you to the weaker tales by name,and in any event, readers will probably demur from my opinion in this regard.
Mr Dyson is to be applauded. If his intention was to provoke frissons of fear in the reader, he has succeeded in his enterprise, and his work is recommended to those who enjoy the twisted pleasure which is likely to come their way from reading this book alone...and at night....
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on 31 March 2013
I picked this up when I saw Ghost Stories (which if it returns to the West End or tours is an absolutely, five star, must see).

I was really disappointed in this collection: those with good beginnings have poor endings, those with interesting characters weak plots, and those with interesting plots ape other people's styles very poorly. There are some wonderfully creepy ideas here, but most are poorly realised, and often the weight of description destroys the narrative pace. Most would make far better TV episodes than short stories, and I hope he reuses some of the ideas for scripts.

The Haunted Book is so much better it might almost be another author.
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on 10 August 2011
A decent set of horror/gothic short stories, perhaps could have done with a few more to fill the book up, didn't quite capture my attention to the extent that the author's previous collection (Never Trust a Rabbit) did but worth a look.
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on 17 April 2012
This book drew me in from page 1 and I couldn't put it down. Beautifully crafted, twisted, dark and hilarious.
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