Where You Live by Gary McMahon

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Where You Live by Gary McMahon
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal, Holiday
Length: Short Story (123 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Horror is everywhere…

It’s waiting behind a closed door, sitting in an ordinary chair, or following you on a country walk. Perhaps it’s washed up on a tranquil beach, hanging at a local skate park, recorded on an MP3 player hard drive, or even embedded somewhere deep within the design of something as simple and innocuous as a supermarket barcode.

Horror is everywhere, in the shadows and in the light.

It takes on every shape, comes in every conceivable size.

But most of all it’s right where you live.

Fear can be many things: an early warning system, a false alarm, a cheap thrill, or even the sublimation of stereotypes you’d never admit to believing in. The question is, how do you know when it’s real?

In “Just Another Horror Story,” a couple in the middle of a torrid love affair check into a hotel room for a night of debauchery. Little do Terry and Nancy know what actually awaits them. This tale was a great introduction to Mr. McMahon’s work. While I was able to anticipate some of the twists and turns in it I was pleasantly surprised by how often he made me second-guess my predictions about what would happen next.

“Trog Boy Ran” is by far the best story in this collection. Shortly Niles Reedman responds to a recent, painful breakup by stalking his ex-girlfriend and very odd things begin to occur around him. The pacing in this piece is so well done it felt almost cinematic. As disturbing as it was for me to step into the mind of a chilling and extremely dangerous protagonist, I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end of Niles’ adventure.

I desperately wanted to like “The Chair.” In it a boy named Ben battles with despair, loneliness and an undisclosed malaise as his mother struggles with her own mental illness. The introduction caught my attention right away, but I had trouble understanding the symbolism of certain objects in Ben’s life and well as what was happening in the final scene. The sequel to this tale, “The Table,” answers some questions before asking the reader to sort out a brand new batch of them. The concept is alluring, but given the subtlety of what is happening these particular stories may have worked better as a novella.

This pattern repeats itself a few other times in this collection. Every entry includes at least one surprising, frightening, or unexpected element, but some of their horrors are a little difficult to unravel. I found something I really enjoyed about every single tale. That isn’t something that normally occurs for me when I review larger anthologies. Had a little more time been spent planting clues about what was truly happening in the tales that skipped over as much exposition as possible this book would have easily earned a much higher rating.

Save some time to savour the story notes at the end of this novel. Reading them made me feel like I was sitting down with Mr. McMahon to have a personal conversation about where his ideas come from and why he wrote certain characters the way he did. This section is a definite highlight of the novel, but it should be saved until the very end to avoid spoilers.

Where You Live is a solid collection of psychological horror. It’s a good choice for anyone in the mood for a thought-provoking, understated read that becomes more frightening the more one thinks about what they just read.

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