Edited by James D. Jenkins & Ryan Cagle
Valancourt Books, 2020
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Now at its fourth installment, The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories has become one of the most accomplished and popular series of dark fiction anthologies, not to be missed by any genre fan.

If possible, in my opinion, the present volume is even more satisfying, a delightful mix of new and old (sometimes forgotten)  stories which have in common a simple but indispensable feature: quality.

Among a bunch of very good tales, I’ll mention the ones I’ve enjoyed more.

“Rain and Gaslight” by Hubert Lampo is a fascinating, atmospheric piece where the uncanny and the unexplained are masterfully addressed by means of a lovely woman’s character. By contrast, Eliza Lynn Linton’s  superb “The Family at Fenhouse,” taking place in a depressing and menacing household, revolves around an ugly, unfortunate lady.

In “Happy Birthday, Dear Alex” by John Keir Cross, a macabre birthday gift becomes the object of a long and restless quest with an unexpected outcome, while in the powerful, quite horrific “Rain” by Garrett Boatman, natural disasters (an endless deluge) and supernatural evil blend to produce a terrifying, unforgettable mix.

A little gem for Latin scholars: “Remember Your Grammar” was the very first story by Simon Raven that I ever read, years ago, and that prompted me to look for all his—alas, not too extensive—dark fiction output.

The always dependable Lisa Tuttle contributes “The Other Room,” a wonderful tale about a secret room where destiny is lurking, while Robert M. Coates provides “The Fury”, the dispassionate, precise report of the fate awaiting an unrepentant child molester.

The volume is bookended by the magnificent “The Poet Lewis Bowden Has Died” by Stephen Gregory: not quite a horror story, but a melancholy, insightful tale of love, death and ghostly memories.

Highly recommended.