By Gary McMahon

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

After so many years spent reading dark fiction not for professional reasons but just for the fun of it, sometimes I feel sick of it or simply bored by the genre limitations and clichés, the never ending recurrence of subjects and themes.

Even the new generation of horror writers doesn't seem immune from the habit of revisiting the same old paths and the same commonplaces, often lacking originality and courage. Thus the appearance of a new author able to raise the dust from this dull tableau must be praised and saluted with joy.

Dirty Prayers is the debut collection of Gary Mc Mahon, a writer whose stories, so far published in a number of genre magazines and anthologies, have already been critically acclaimed for showing a solid talent for storytelling, a deep sensitivity in probing the secrets of the human soul, an uncanny ability to entertain while subtly disquieting.

The volume collects twenty-five stories, too many to allow a detailed comment upon each tale.

Most of the stories are truly excellent and I will mention only the ones that struck me as more remarkable.

Unicorn is the masterful portrait of a love affair cooling down, in which some affection is still lingering in the heart of a man willing to help the woman he used to love, while the bleak The Bungalow People depicts the loneliness and sadness of an old married couple.

Smother is a story of loss and pain revolving around the tragedy of the sudden death of a baby boy and revealing another forgotten tragedy that occurred in the past in the same house, whereas My Name Is is a tale of guilt and punishment imbued with a touch of mild but irresistible eroticism..

The excellent My Burglar describes quite effectively how a burglar breaking into the house of a beautiful woman falls in love with her and the melancholic New Science tells us gently about the last love encounter for a woman dying of cancer

In A Grown Woman a parental legacy casts its shadow over a man and his relationship with the female sex.

The outstanding Comeback represents a smart exploration of the forbidden relationship between a girl and her stepbrother leading to an unsettling outcome, and the delightful The In-between is an ambiguous piece where a teenager experiences the unfathomable mysteries of the world.

There's a great variety of subgenres and atmospheres, including an upsetting tale of urban horror (Estate of the Nation), some enjoyable surrealistic fantasies (Do Not Be Alarmed and Man in the Chimney), a scary ghost story (The Forgotten Prisoner), an admirable, compelling example of 'quiet horror' (Like a Stone) and a creepy tale of murderousness (The Forever Doll)

For those who don't know McMahon's work this book is an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with one of the best new authors of classy, captivating dark fiction. The readers who have already encountered his stories elsewhere will be more than happy to enjoy them a second time.

Dirty Prayers by Gary McMahon. Gray Friar Press tpb, 287 pp, UK£7.99/USA$16.00 plus P&P from the publisher, but also available at various online outlets including Amazon UK

Website: - www.grayfriarpress.com

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