cover image Figures of Fear

Figures of Fear

Graham Masterton. Severn, $28.95 hardback (208p), ISBN 978-0-7278-8446-6

Masterton (Festival of Fear), a stalwart of horror fiction, writes with an easy assurance that makes even the weaker stories in this collection tolerable. The shorter tales are often predictable, with "gotcha" twists: "Ex-Voto" explains the wisdom of listening to spooky native artisans; in "What the Dark Does," fear of objects in the night proves well founded; and there's a whiff of victim-blaming in "The Battered Wife." Writerly craft meets with a raw and occasionally elegiac imagination in longer stories. In "Saint Br%C3%B3nach's Shrift," a man relives the nightmarish event that is the source of his happiness and is offered a solution both sacrificial and improbable. "Spirits of the Age" is a Henry James%E2%80%93flavored ghost story, light on scares and heavy on atmosphere. In "The Night Hider" a woman is haunted by a burnt horror inhabiting a wardrobe that has more than a passing relationship to a children's classic, and "Underbed" is a work of fantastic and terrible invention, as a boy finds the worlds buried beneath his bedclothes. Despite a few near-misses, this collection is a must for Masterson fans. Agent: Wiescka Masterton Literary Agency. (Mar.)