Down by the Sea-And Other Tales of Dark Destiny
Michelle Mellon
HellBound Books
April 6, 2018
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know that I’m a big fan of speculative short fiction. I read a lot of it and keep my bookshelves full all the time. Besides the regular shelves, I also have a special section for books that are unique and really move me. To make it onto “The Wall of Fame” is a big achievement. Michelle Mellon’s excellent collection of dark short stories Down by the Sea has earned a place on that wall. Her stories are well crafted and you can feel the time spent smoothing out the wrinkles. It is rare indeed to find no typos! The diversity of characters, locations, and pace make each story feel fresh. Mellon’s writing is powerful and tightly focused

HellBound Books has delivered an attractive and very professional product. The cover art is perfect, the font size is great, and I am pleased to see that the book was printed in America. Inside there are thirteen (a coincidence? I think not) tales of dark destiny for your reading pleasure. The first story in the book, “Crawlspace,” sets the tone of what to expect from Mellon’s writing. A teenage boy has been acting up and making life hell for his mother, so she sends him over to Old Lady Ennis for some community service. Unfortunately the young man is not on his best behavior and a conflict ensues. Who will win this battle?

“Down by the Sea,” the book’s title story, is a unique tale told by a young woman who is part of a special legacy that connects her family to the sea and an ancient otherworldly creature. She remembers days spent with her grandfather in a unique shelter while holding a sort of vigil. At the time she didn’t even know what she was waiting for. But her father did. The thing from the sea is massive, like the ancient ones that so many Lovecraft stories feature, but the woman has a plan to stop it. The question is, will her sacrifice serve the purpose?

Speaking of creatures, in “Fear of the Darkness,” Christine is a woman who’s got it all going her way. She’s a business powerhouse, has good ties with her family, and is happily married. So life is great! Well…almost. See, Christine has just one problem, but it’s a real doozy. You might even say it rules her life, because everything has to be planned around it. Yep! Christine is afraid of the dark. Her husband John insists that her fear is irrational and makes plans to cure her. She protests, but he pushes on. What will happen when the lights go out? Relief or something a whole lot worse?

Whatever happens to us in life, we all hope for the best. We want to be liked by our friends and loved by our parents. In these modern times, it’s difficult to define what “normal” is. But cutting people off from the rest of the world to protect them from sin doesn’t usually go as planned. Humans are curious by nature and there’s no stopping teenage hormones. So when the 15-year-old daughter of an ultra-conservative religious couple gets in trouble, they blow their tops. The poor girl is treated even worse by her parents until she is forced to defend herself. Years of confinement and stolen dreams boil over into a very unique holiday display. All because she just wanted to feel like “Somebody’s Angel.”

This is Michelle Mellon’s first collection of speculative short fiction and she’s already working on a second one. Hopefully HellBound Books will be publishing that one soon, because I really enjoyed reading Down by the Sea! I highly encourage you to grab a copy of this fantastic collection of dark tales that will chill your blood while engaging your brain. Great characters and inventive story lines that change everyday things into shockers. “Fallen Leaves,” “Crash Test Dummy,” and an elderly gardener with a “Green Thumb” are not exactly as they seem. But, that’s what we love about speculative fiction. Five Stars! Don’t miss out! Get Down by the Sea now and support independent writers and presses. You’ll be glad you did!