Shaun Jeffrey, Voyeurs of Death. Doorways Publications, 2007. Pp. 129. ISBN 9780615145679. $14.95 / £11.50.

Reviewed by The Exploding Boy

Shaun Jeffrey's first collection of short stories is a veritable feast of fiendishness. Having grown up in the vicinity of a graveyard, Jeffrey's imagination has clearly flourished in such macabre soil. Of the fifteen stories here, one will discover long forgotten gods haunting the Scottish wilderness, alien pregnancies in shadowed rooms and cocktail dresses with miraculous (and menacing) attributes.

There is more besides, as Jeffrey displays cunning and craftiness in all his works, approaching his themes with an original eye and a genuine knack for a thrilling twist. A great sketch also heads up each story, Zach McCain's pencil lending this collection a cool artistic touch.

Some of the settings for these narratives are as alarming as they are unsettling – a late night car park where 'doggers' gather, the premonition of an illicit affair, a wife swapping party – yet Jeffrey handles this inventive territory with panache, delivering swift and delightful kicks to the scare centres of the brain.

Jeffrey's flair for believable characters works best when dealing with relationships and a fair portion of these stories track human beings in the throes of unfortunate couplings. From the misguided curiosity of ‘The Watchers’, to the male arrogance of ‘Venetian Kiss’, and the father/son estrangement of ‘Peacock Lawn’, Jeffrey opens a door onto private worlds, and it becomes chillingly clear that the 'voyeurs' of the title also include you, the reader.

In an assortment of grotesqueries that never disappoints, it is hard to choose a stand out story from Voyeurs of Death. My money is on the fantastical ‘The Quilters of Thurmond’, or perhaps the gruesome ‘Clockwork’, a tale that might owe its genesis to Lovecraft's Reanimator yarn, given a mechanical twist. Either way, none of the stories here dip below engaging and in many cases soar above the norm, proving themselves worthy bedfellows in the modern horror tradition.

Voyeurs of Death shows Shaun Jeffrey as an accomplished spookmeister, and, if you'll forgive the pun, a burst of fresh blood to the contemporary genre. Miss out at your peril.

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