This is one of the first short story collections I’ve read since I’ve left high school. Honestly, I just preferred longer stories when I had “limited” free reading time during college and after work. But, as we draw nearer to Halloween and I am branching out to writing my own short stories completely separate from “The Monster of Selkirk” series, I decided it was about time I brush up on the short story format. So I killed two birds with one stone here: a book of nothing but scary stories! Which does make this a bit of a unique review for me as well, since there are a slew of different stories of varying lengths with different kinds of monsters… I’m not going to review each story individually. It would make this review unnecessarily long and, more importantly, ruin all of the elements of suspense, horror, and general creepy factor for the entire collection. So I’ll be looking at Sutton’s book as a collective whole rather than its individual stories.
Sutton’s book is a great campfire horror story collection with the first few stories being very short and digestible. Which makes them easy to read to the kids (or husband and dog in my case) just before bed. I will say though, that I felt that the shorter stories were not the strongest when it came to being scary. Personally, I like that slow build, that escalation of tension. That requires more set up, a bit more subtly when introducing the monster and so forth. But that also means it doesn’t work for a quick and scary campfire story, so to each their own on that score but I guess it’s a good thing when someone wishes the story was longer, right?
The stories vary in their monsters as well so you aren’t going to be stuck with a hundred ghost stories. There are plenty of those, but it sways from visits from demons/ghosts brought by guilty consciences, hauntings/possessions with mythical evil gods and ghosts, urban legends where the boogeyman is very real, and stories with creepy kids. Some stories are a bit more traditional than others, haunted old homes with bloody histories, mental hospitals where the patient is possessed, things like that, but that doesn’t make them bad either. It’s just more what you’d expect from a spooky story anthology. Like I’ve mentioned before, Sutton’s book holds a wide swathe of different kinds of creepy crawlies. The author even adds in a nice, personal touch where she writes a personal letter to the reader about the inspiration for the story and why it’s included. It gives a nice insight that you normally don’t get and makes Sutton seem really approachable, which I like. It also lightens the mood after the stories which, if you like going to bed feeling unsettled may spoil that mood for you or be exactly what you need.
So the question remains: did I personally get scared? The answer is no but that’s more a reflection on me than anything else. There’s just something about reading a horror story vs. watching it that just doesn’t leave me with a feeling of terror. You will never experience a jump scare in a book and even when the gruesome stuff is left to your imagination, it will only ever go as far as your imagination lets it. So the better question is: did I get creeped out during any of the stories? The answer is yes, specifically for the longer ones (which, if you have an e-reader you’ll know instantly by the estimated reading time of each chapter). The last story in this anthology was by far my favorite. It’s a great little twist on urban legends and makes you question who the real monsters are and I really liked that. It was another one I really wish was a bit longer in the best way possible!
This is hard to give a rating for. The stories vary so much that individually I would rate them either higher or lower but overall, given all the stories I liked and the personal touches the author has with the letter at the end of each story, I’m giving this a 4 out of 5 stars and will definitely be looking for more horror anthologies in the future now that I’ve gotten my feet wet again!
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!