cover image The Best of Michael Marshall Smith

The Best of Michael Marshall Smith

Michael Marshall Smith. Subterranean, $45 (568p) ISBN 978-1-59606-950-3

The 30 stories in this standout collection showcase Smith’s facility at imbuing genre tropes with humanity. Every entry offers something unexpected, while grounding inventive paranormal situations in recognizable emotion. Smith (Everything You Need) crafts a plausible sequel to Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann” with “Window of Erich Zann,” successfully transplanting the tale from Europe to Haight-Ashbury and exploring the protagonist’s capacity to see into a terrifying alternate reality. Smith’s first published short story, “The Man Who Drew Cats,” which won the British Fantasy Award in 1991, offers a searing window into domestic violence, examining the passive group-think of unhelpful bystanders on the way to a chilling denouement. “Dear Alison,” which takes the form of a letter a husband is drafting to the wife he both loves and is abandoning, incrementally reveals the horror at its heart in a masterful slow burn. Smith conveys his fantastical plots in evocative prose; in one story, he describes the rustling of a femme fatale’s dress as sounding “like a shiver of leaves outside a window in the night.” This collection makes for a perfect introduction to a gifted writer who merits a larger audience. (Dec.)