AND CANNOT COME AGAIN
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Simon Bestwick, admittedly, is one of the more brilliant contemporary British authors of dark fiction (for once the words of praise by his fellow writers included at the beginning of the book are sincere and well deserved).
Thus, if you are not quite familiar with this writer, the present collection is an extraordinary opportunity to read and enjoy some of his more accomplished stories.
On the other hand, if you are already well acquainted with Bestwick’s short fiction, you may feel disappointed noticing that the large majority of the stories assembled in the volume are reprints and that a few have been reprinted more than once. Readers looking for new material will find only a couple of new tales.
Among the fifteen stories featured in the book, some are particularly worth mentioning.
“Dermot” is a disturbing tale hinting at hidden horrors in a devious way which makes the narrative even more scary, while “Hushabye” is a frightening piece about a hard-to-trace monster vampirizing children’s souls.
In the offbeat crime story “Left Behind,” noir meets the supernatural, and in the very dark “Winter’s End,” a love dream is shattered by the appearance of a horror returning from the past.
“A Small Cold Hand” is a gentle ghost story featuring a little girl and the man who killed her in a car accident, whereas “The Children of Moloch” is a vivid feast of graphic horror.
The title story “And Cannot Come Again,” one of the two previously unpublished tales, is hard to describe without spoilers, but is a strong horrific piece where, once again, the past returns to haunt the lives of a group of former friends.
The two highlights of the collection, to me, are “The Moraine,” a phenomenal,intense tale of terror, where two hikers get lost in the mist and have to face an inhuman horror, and “The School House,” a compelling yarn where the memories of past horrors resurface when two former schoolmates meet again in a mental institution (one as an orderly, the other as a patient).
Incidentally, the book is aptly subtitled Tales of Childhood, Regret, and Innocence Lost.