Haunted Nights
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton
Bloomhouse/Anchor Books
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Famous editor Ellen Datlow and distinguished author Lisa Morton have teamed up to produce a Horror Writers Association anthology featuring sixteen new tales set in the dark atmosphere of Halloween. The list of contributors to the volume includes Kelley Amstrong, Pat Cadigan, Elise Forier Edie, Brian Evenson, Joanna Parypinski, Kate Jonez, SP Miskowski, Eric J. Guignard, Paul Kane, and John R. Little.

All the authors skillfully address the Halloween theme with a great variety of tones and styles, exploring the unholiest holiday from any possible angle, thus providing a very enjoyable book for horror lovers.

Some stories, however, are so remarkably good to deserve a special mention.

Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant) provides “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfsbane Seeds,” an excellent revisitation of the haunted house classic subject, set at the Halloween time, featuring the not-so-gentle ghost of a little girl, while Stephen Graham Jones contributes “Dirtmouth,” an accomplished horror story where a dead woman comes back from the grave to retrieve her children, much to the surprise of her husband and of the readers…

“A Small Taste of the Old County” by Jonathan Maberry describes an odd gastronomic tour de force in Santa Cruz (Argentina), leading to a supernatural revenge of past evil deeds.

Now the three real highlights of the anthology.

“The Seventeen-Year Itch” by Garth Nix, an outstanding, quite unusual piece portrays an elderly man suffering from a cyclic, irresistible itch, the nature of which remains a deeply disturbing puzzle.

Jeffrey Ford’s “Witch Hazel” is a very dark, spellbinding tale of horror and malice, including a mysterious disease, set in the Barrens of South Jersey in the year 1853.

John Langan’s “Lost in the Dark” is an offbeat, superb novelette, suspended between reality and fantasy, investigating the mystery surrounding the shooting of an allegedly fictional movie where things are never what they seem. Intriguing and creepy.

In short, a “must-have” book.

About Mario Guslandi

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