The “Dark Screams” series has provided some very good fiction through its first three volumes and I was happy to have the fourth installment of the series to dig into. As with its predecessors, editors Richard Chizmar and Brian James Freeman put a couple of my favorite authors in the genre alongside some authors I am less familiar with in a neat little anthology of five tales of terror.
The anthology kicks off with “The Departed” by Clive Barker. This is not an original story in the book but it is still a strangely touching story that can tug at the heart strings of the read. In the story, a mother reaches out to try to contact her children from the afterlife and things do not go as she had expected. Barker can write some extreme horror but he also has the ability to play with the reader’s emotions in his “quiet” stories like this one. This is a very strong, four star story to kick off the book even if it is not really a horror story.
“The New War” by Lisa Morton is a new story and not a reprint and it is the perfect story to follow “The Departed.” In this story, a World War II veteran finds himself stalked by the shadow of death and fighting in a new and very personal war for his life and sanity. This story is similar in a lot of ways to “The Departed” although it does have a little more of a horror element to it. Still, it is an emotional story that is sure to get the reader thinking and well worth 4 stars.
“Sammy Comes Home” by Ray Garton takes the anthology in a different direction. This story is a B-movie romp about monsters that have come to nest in animals with the intent of taking over the world. This story is a lot of fun as I have come to expect from Garton. This story is both a little and silly and scary at the same time and was my favorite story in the book and rates a definite 5 stars.
Ed Gorman’s “The Brasher Girl” starts off a little slow but kicks into gear and sinks its teeth into the reader. It is a story of the prettiest girl in town and the evil force that controls her. This story is a little shocking at times and is a strong, 4 star story about demonic (or possibly alien?) possession.
“Creature Feature” by Heather Graham closes out the book with a heavy dose of blood. A horror convention is supposedly cursed even though no one believes in the curse. When a Jack the Ripper statue seemingly comes to life, it appears that the curse may be real. This story started out with a great deal of promise but fizzled at the end and is, in my opinion, the weakest story of the anthology. Even so, I would still rate it as deserving 3 stars.
I have enjoyed the “Dark Screams” series since the first book and would have to say that “Dark Screams: Volume 4” is the best of the bunch so far. All five stories are strong and three of them, “The Departed” and “The Brasher Girl” are reprinted, are new stories which makes it even better. As with any anthology, different readers will have different opinions on the stories overall but this book has a strong selection of stories from some of the genre’s best writers. It is a short book and a great way to revisit a favorite author and maybe even find a new favorite along the way.
I would like to thank Random House Hydra and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “Dark Screams: Volume 4” is scheduled to be released in August.