As a good start to my week, I have received two new positive reviews of What They Hear in the Dark, Spectral’s inaugural chapbook publication. The first one is from Stephen Theaker, posted in Theaker’s Quarterly
Becky and Rob have moved into a creepy new home following a family tragedy, one gradually revealed to the reader. The space between them, of things that can’t be said, is mirrored by the space beneath their stairs, a place where nothing can be said. There, Becky feels the presence of someone they both love and miss; Rob feels something more malicious.
This is the first in a series of chapbooks from Spectral Press, sold on a subscription basis, and given that Gary McMahon seems to be an author with a bright future – a bright future of spreading misery and darkness! – this is a very collectable little item.
The story for me suffered a little from the climax being anticipated by a premonitory dream; second time around is in theory more frightening because Rob notices something new, though I was distracted by wondering why he realised it then and not the first time. Logic aside (and where does logic enter into what you notice in a dream anyway?), what he notices at the end is truly shocking, and the story as a whole is moving and quite terrifying. As with “In the Skin” (in Different Skins), McMahon isn’t afraid to write about bad things happening to children, and that gives him the opportunity to hit us where it really hurts.
A handful of minor editing and formatting glitches demonstrate why a series of chapbooks is such a practical, sensible way for a small press to get started. The format echoes – copies, you might even say – that of the successful Nightjar chapbooks: similar cover stylings, lower case titles, and even a title that reminds of Michael Marshall Smith’s successful What Happens When You Wake Up In the Night. You might wonder if there is room in the market for two such similar offerings, but if Spectral continue to produce chapbooks as interesting as this one I’m sure there will be.
The second review is from Morpheus Tales and can be found in their Review Supplement (no. 12),which can be found here (and it can be downloaded for free, too!). This is what Stanley Riiks had to say about it:
Following the murder of their son, Eddie, Rob and Becky decide to renovate a house, to try to take their mind off things, and to give them some time to heal and a project to work on together. But there is a room in the house that is completely empty of noise. The quiet room.
And the parents of the dead child are haunted, and in the quiet room the ghosts come in silence…
McMahon does this kind of story so well it’s quite sickening. How he manages to tug at the heart-strings and draw you in so deeply in the space of a few pages (in this case just twenty two), is nothing short of remarkable.
This is quiet horror in every sense, the theme echoing the contents of the story. Subtlety reins as we watch the characters attempting to deal with their loss, haunted (literally and metaphorically).
This is another haunting story from McMahon that sticks with you long after reading it. One that plays on your mind and touches a sadness inside all of us who have ever lost anyone.
Spectral Press have launched with this stellar title by McMahon, and with only one hundred copies available, I should imagine they will disappear fast. I’d like to see a printed version to see the quality of the finished product (one of the difficulties of reviewing an ebook version), but obviously one of the problems with limited editions prints is availability.
An evocative and compelling story that really gets you in the gut. Powerful and touching, McMahon delves into the true darkness of our hearts.