An Unheavenly Host
Sarob Press, 2022
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
This is the fourth collection of horror and ghost stories by British author CE Ward. The previous three collections (also published by the excellent small imprint Sarob Press) are now out of print, and I strongly advise you to secure a copy of the present book before that becomes unavailable as well. If you’re a lover of elegantly written, subtly disquieting dark fiction, you would not want to miss this delightful collection presented in a beautiful produced volume.
Of the seven stories included, five are particularly remarkable.
“Autumn Harvest” is a splendid tale, inspired by the classic MR James stories, where a man, after inheriting an old mansion, discovers supernatural, evil forces emanating from an apple tree in a corner of the garden, while “11334” is an excellent, traditional ghost story about a haunted property, told in a refined narrative style but apt to elicit a lot of shudders.
The disturbing “Substantial Evidence” features a journalist investigating the dark secrets of a small village and finding more than he was bargaining for.
The vividly told “Assizes” is an engrossing supernatural tale revolving around a trial taking place in the year 1685 involving some insurrectionists against King James the Second . The story is actually a sort of sequel to the MR James story “Martin Close”.
To me the best tale in the volume is “The Chapter House Window”, an outstanding, elegantly written piece of horror describing the terrors linked to a small village cathedral inhabited by unholy, lethal creatures.