Skein and Bone Paperback – 17 Jul 2015
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Stories aside, the Kindle version contains several typographical errors, with several missing speech marks, missing or repeated words here and there, and a couple of times I encountered large error images, as though a picture or illustration had failed to download.
There tales are of suspense wrapped in emotion, an exploration of trapped human spirit.
Namesake, the opening story, perhaps sums up Leslie's approach: the story of a woman named Burden, trying to lose her unfortunate surname by finding a husband is intricately constructed from the outset, with every detail note perfect. When Burden meets Blithe, a man at a bar, the reader knows her anticipated happy ending isn't on the cards, but the actual ending is both chillingly ambiguous and clear like fine crystal. Namesake showcases Leslie's skill both at wordplay and literary allusion, neither of which detract from the horrific denouement.
There are almost too many highlights in this collection: the deeply unsettling haunting in The Quiet Room; the fantastic allegory of The Cloud Cartographer, the dark, dark comedy of Ghost and the hotel-based psychological horror in The Blue Room. There's plenty of uncanny things happening in these stories but what makes the unease really hit home is the emotional charge behind them all. Grief, loss and missed opportunities haunt Leslie's characters as much as the supernatural or ghostly.
Many of the stories use as a central metaphor something that is handmade, traditionally crafted: old dresses in Skein & Bone, the decoration of a new house in Ulterior Design (with yellow wallpaper, natch), the cooking of preserves in Preservation. There's a similar feel to the stories themselves: these are handcrafted, every allusion and metaphor woven together to make something unique. For this reason, Leslie excels at the endings of her stories: both the literal and the symbolic come together. Indeed, in the perfect last line of Preservation you know longer know or care which is which.
Absorbing, subtle, scary, exquisite - you really, really need to read Skein & Bone.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
They build quietly but with growing dread to a disturbing and unsettling climax. These are slow burn stories with a quiet punch. Landscapes and environments mirror the disturbed and broken minds of the wounded protagonists. The characters inhabit visually precise rooms and lives described in metaphorically rich and poetic prose. And birds fly through these fables like unhinged foreboding spirit guides. There are generally no graphic monsters or overt terrors here, but a sense of dread runs throughout and does not disappoint. I believe this is the authors first collection. It is definitely worth a try if you enjoy subtle stories that stay with you for days after reading. These are fable like stories at home in the realm of psychological horror.
Leslie does "quiet horror" so very well. It's a phrase I see in the handful of reviews already here on Amazon, but it fits. You could call them dark fantasy, but in my opinion that really exceed that category, offering more depth of meaning and a little more true horror than those safer subgenres offer. There's also a healthy vein of weird fiction throughout, for those inclined toward Robert Aickman or Arthur Machen. "Preservation" and "Senbazuru" are two more favorites. The writing is subtle, gorgeous, and finely balanced. Highly recommended for anyone who looks for layers in their horror. I'm looking forward to her forthcoming debut novel, too.