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Customer Review

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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