Year’s End: 14 Tales of Holiday Horror by Various (edited by J. Alan Hartman)

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Year’s End: 14 Tales of Holiday Horror by Various (edited by J. Alan Hartman)
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery, Holiday, Contemporary, Historical, Horror
Length: Short Story (99 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The countdown has begun, but the only thing striking at midnight will be terror…

New Year’s Eve isn’t all champagne and confetti. For some, it’s filled with regrets, the changing of the day dragging them kicking and screaming into a year for which they aren’t prepared. This year, some people will be screaming, but they may not make it to the New Year at all.

Join 14 horror authors as they reveal the dark side of our end-of-year celebrations. This anthology of a holiday gone horrifyingly wrong contains stories by James S. Dorr, Richard Godwin, Nicky Peacock, John Stewart Wynne, Steve Shrott, Leah Givens, George Seaton, Kathryn Ohnaka, Jeremy K. Tyler, Betsy Miller, Byron Barton, Steve Bartholomew, Ali Maloney and Foxglove Lee.

What could possibly be frightening about one year ending and another beginning? Everything.

All fourteen of these stories have truly creepy premises, from characters reluctantly participating in time-honoured traditions that usher in the new year to secret wishes that unfortunately come true. Some authors do a better job of introducing readers to the horrors of their worlds than did others but even the additions that I found less entertaining included scenes that surprised or scared me.

“Appointment in Time,” for example, built up the tension so slowly there was little relief to be found when I figured out what James S. Dorr was doing to the Englishman narrator who detailed his participation in an old New Year’s tradition. The clues were a little too easy to piece together but I still shivered when my prediction of how it would end came to pass. This tendency to reveal crucial information too early on was repeated in “Doll,” in which a businessman buys an antique doll for his ill sister, and “Deadly Secrets,” in which a man visits a mysterious business in order to gain the self control necessary to keep his New Year’s resolutions.

My favourite entries include “The Story of Myrtle Roadie,” in which an eccentric old woman living in a small town in the 1880s is accused of ritually murdering children every December 31, and “Trigger,” in which a fireworks display in a former wildlife sanctuary takes a wild turn. Year’s End is worth buying for the twists and turns in these two stories alone as both kept me guessing until the final sentences. For some reason the strongest entries were concentrated in the first half of the book with the exception of “Token Lesbians.” The idea of a teenage girl, her girlfriend and her sister experiencing the things Stefani runs into on the subway and at the club was a funny and unexpected way to end this collection.

Reading Year’s End: 14 Tales of Holiday Horror is a great way to say adieu to 2012 and kick off 2013 with a shudder. Remember, New Year’s Eve is only 11 months away and who knows what awaits us then!

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