Jeff Strand is a brilliant writer who has a penchant for writing about serial killers. He has written a great book about a monster living in the woods. This is my first time reading Michael McBride’s work, but rumor has it that he likes to write stories pertaining to the end of the world. The Mad and the Macabre is a book that contains two stories, one by Strand and one by McBride. Each story is under one hundred pages long, but both pack a punch worthy of reading.

Jeff Strand’s Kutter is about a serial killer, Charlie, who preys on female drug addicts and hookers. Charlie is a forty-something-year-old guy with an office job and no social skills. He spends most of the time at work or at home. He has rules: he only hunts new women every two months, takes them back to his house and cuts them in his basement until they die. His recent victim died too quickly, and Charlie, feeling cheated, wants to break his rule and get another victim. Instead, he finds a dog that looks like it was hurt in a fight. He brings the dog home and nurses it back to health. At first, Charlie is not fond of the Boston terrier, but the animal soon grows on him and becomes his best friend. He names the dog Kutter, and finds that having the dog gets him more noticed by women. Kutter may be helping him, but when it comes to hunting his next victims, he finds it hard to do with the dog in tow. Charlie, desperate for a victim, begins breaking his own rules, and by doing so, he makes himself and his sins more noticeable to the people around him.

Kutter is a fast read. At only eighty-nine pages long, it’s a great story that is hard not read in one sitting. Jeff Strand, as always, creates great characters. It’s not normal to find yourself rooting for a serial killer, but in Kutter, you fall for Charlie. You know that he is a cold-blooded killer, but it’s hard not to cheer him on, and the dog Kutter has a great personality, as well. Strand not only makes the characters likeable, but also writes some very suspenseful chapters that keep you reading through the pages. It’s a great short story, and well worth adding to your list of must-reads.

The same can be said for Michael McBride’s Remains. The story takes place on top of a mountain deep in the Rockies in Colorado. Seven friends in search of a religious experience enter the forest around the mountain never again to be seen. There family members who went to search for them also disappeared. Years later, more family members of the missing get together to go on yet another search after a bone of one of the victims is discovered in a mountain lion’s den. They know that the mountain has hot springs, and that the bone that was found had a rare from of mold on it. They go to look for their lost loved ones, but what they find will haunt them forever.

Remains is a story about which I don’t want to say too much. The reader is led to believe one thing, but something extremely different happens. There is a lot of suspense and mystery, and when you think you’ve figured out where the story is going, you’re thrown off course and the story twists in another direction. It’s hard not to sit down and read it in one sitting. Although the beginning is a bit slow in establishing the plot, once it gets going, you’re in for one hell of a ride.

Dark Regions Press released The Mad and the Macabre. Normally, you don’t see many publishing companies releasing short stories by two writers in the same book. Most of time, you’ll see anthologies that include stories from four or more writers. Dark Regions has a few books containing two short stories by two different writers. This is one thing I respect about this company. The Mad and the Macabre is great a book containing two great stories by two great writers. If you’re a fan of either Jeff Strand or Michael McBride, this is a must-have book. If you haven’t heard of them, do yourself a favor and become familiar with their work. You won’t regret it.

– Horror Bob