The best short stories are quirky and – in a volume which is new to my bookshelves – Stewart Ross’s lockdown project hits all the right notes.
These ten stories fit neither the ghost or the horror genre. They are, as the title suggests, simply sinister – left of field. Ross is too intelligent and knowledgeable a writer to have picked that adjective casually. And the stories owe much more to Roald Dahl, than to, say, MR James.
I loved Pixels, for instance, in which a man with “fingers like tinned asparagus” has probably murdered his wife. Comeuppance comes in strange forms and Ross has made a fine job, well observed job of the role of gossip and rumour in small town communities.
The title story The Hologram – very entertaining – takes us to a grand house being opened to the public with advanced, futuristic technology to present images of the past. Of course it doesn’t quite pan out as planned.
Or what about the orphaned boy who finds the sexual passion – overt lust – of his grandparents utterly repugnant or the church warden with a DSO writing to his bishop about pyromania – which may be connected with the installation of a new heat pump? On the other hand the grave of Lucie Fernandez is in the churchyard and the first three syllables of her name could be significant.
Ross is an experienced writer of fiction and non fiction for young readers but this book is strictly for adults. The stories are tightly told and satisfyingly full of people getting their just deserts – you just know that the irreverent young archeologist who urinates on the face of Beelzebub in Egypt won’t last much longer, for instance.
Buy a digital download and take it on a boring train journey.
Next week on Susan’s Bookshelves: My Name is Book by John Agard