By Liza Granville

Illustrated by Carole Humphreys

Reviewed by Terry Gates-Grimwood

Good writing, that's what I found in Liza Granville's chapbook, Whispers in the Dark, a fluid, flawless, easy style that drew me in to where I found four highly individual and highly imaginative tales.

To kick-off there is a moving ghost story called Last Year's Doll. The ending is, for me, predictable, but that didn't lessen its emotional impact. The prose is wonderfully simple and clear, the strangeness and ultimate tragedy of the story, understated but effective.

Paradise Betrayed is a more difficult story, told from a child's point of view, in which the reader is slowly shown the truth behind the protagonist's naive perception of events. Sadly, the narrative flow is interrupted by several paragraphs of unbroken background information. Fascinating as they are, they would sit better if woven into the narrative. The story itself, however, is a clever and subtle piece and, once flowing, is told in a darkly energetic - and impressive - style.

From paradise, we are taken into The Waiting Room which is my own personal favourite. This is an excellent, beautifully written work set in an old people's home. The characters are artfully drawn. The dialogue is effective, presenting the character of each speaker with a wonderful clarity - the relentless, repetitive questioning by poor old Izzie, the barely-contained impatience of the nurse. Finally, the memories of each of the inmates, told in vignette style, all add-up to a realistic and, once again, intensely moving story.

The high continues into the final story, A - Z in Descending Order, which is an original and dark piece, cleverly and effectively told as a set of short, stabbing paragraphs. The paragraphs themselves are structured as the definitions of each letter of the alphabet. Despair and loneliness are vividly described in sharply economical collections of well chosen words.

Read this collection and spend time with some very well-crafted prose.

And, as always, the artwork of Carole Humphreys has that strange innocence edged with an almost indefinable darkness she conveys so well. This is particularly evident in Last Year's Doll and the second illustration for The Waiting Room. The cover is, as usual, witty and striking.

Whispers in the Dark, A5, 36pp, £1 incl p&p

For details of how to purchase, visit the Bookshop here or order from Project Pulp or Shocklines

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