This collection, from an acclaimed Master of Dark Fiction, consists of twenty-one tales with some being straight genre entries, others psychological terror and finally a few shorts that include science fiction elements. The first eighteen are short stories written solely by Rick and the final three are collaborations with Jesse and Matti Hautala, Matthew J. Costello, and Jim Connolly.
The stories included are:
I’ve Been Thinking About You
The Man Who Looked Like Murphy
Getting the Job Done
Every Mother’s Son
The Compost Heap
The Gates of Dawn
Off the Cuff
The Screaming Head
Abduction (written with Jesse and Matti Hautala)
And the Sea Shall Claim Them (written by Matthew J. Costello and A. J. Matthews)
Scared Crows (written with Jim Connolly)
All the stories in Hautala's second horror collection (after 2000's Bedbugs) are competently told, though they lack the sense of discovery that accompanies great horror fiction. The mere jangle of a presumably nonexistent piano in "The Nephews" has the lobstermen at a Maine bar advising immediate flight. An insomniac, possibly a murderer, is unable to sleep without a newly committed act of horror in "Nightmare Transcript." A fussy bookstore employee who foolishly ordered a mysterious leather-covered book finds that it possesses vampirish tendencies that gradually consume a small rug, her cat, her lover and herself in "Non-returnable." Science fiction and horror mix a little uneasily in "The Man Who Looked Like Murphy," while "Toxic Shock" takes a distinctively unusual approach to the politics of abortion. Eight brief but potent Untcigahunk Indian stories and three collaborative efforts round out the volume. Glenn Chadbourne's illustrations perfectly complement the text.