cover image Petals and Violins: Fifteen Unsettling Tales

Petals and Violins: Fifteen Unsettling Tales

D.P. Watt. Tartarus, $50 (296p) ISBN 978-1-912586-22-6

Watt (Almost Insentient, Almost Divine) creates terrifying situations in prosaic settings in this superior collection. In “The Rocking Horse,” a father decides to purchase a pricey rocking horse for his children, but finds that the artisan who made the figure has an odd response to a cash offer; the search for a bargain eventually leads to a devastating revelation. In “The Magician, or, Crab Lines,” a young boy on holiday gets advice and help fishing for crabs off a pier from a stranger, a benign and friendly interaction that turns shockingly dark. The standout is “Blood and Smoke, Vinegar and Ashes,” which gains its power through Watt’s artful incremental ratcheting up of the tension. The unnamed narrator agrees to help her ex-husband, Paul, after his father, Dieter Helm, dies in his native Poland. When she arrives at Dieter’s home to arrange the funeral and settle up affairs, she finds a well-stocked pantry with homemade comestibles, including a jar of pickled eggs that appear to bulge “against their glass prisons like dead cows’ eyes,” a discovery that proves the prelude to madness. Fans of daylight horror will be eager to seek out more of Watt’s work. (July)