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THRILL ME: SUSPENSEFUL STORIES Edited by Lynette Washington gets 7/10


Thrill Me: suspenseful stories
Edited by Lynette Washington
Glimmer Press

7/10

Published by Glimmer Press, a small Adelaide-based publisher, Thrill Me: suspenseful stories is an anthology of stories by both award-winning and emerging Australian authors. Edited by writer and publisher Lynette Washington, the anthology represents the various authors’ ideas and sense of what a thrilling and suspenseful story should be. The resulting collection of 35 stories presents the reader with a medley of gripping tales.

Several of the stories within the anthology give a genuine sense of foreboding or impending doom, while others explore topical issues such as environmental threats and species extinction with an almost whimsical and derisive narrative. A few of the stories have a feel of playful, mounting apprehension and take place in fairytale-esque landscapes, like Chicken Plucking by Michelle Jäger and A Dark Kind of Living by Alys Jackson. Elements of science fiction permeate some of the stories, like Cyberia by Ruairi Murphy and The Thirteenth Protocol by Sean Williams, which explores futuristic concepts and technology within the tales. Other narratives, such as Seven Minutes in Heaven by Alex Vickery-Howe and The Food Issue by Riana Kinlough, have a dystopian and apocalyptic feel as they delve into the characters’ reactions and sense of responsibility for cataclysmic events.

Gore and vivid descriptions of carnage are also featured within the pages of the anthology, particularly in Fiddler’s Green written by Amy T Matthews. The occasional dead, rotting body appears unexpectedly here and there, adding to the melodrama and the macabre feel of the collection.

There is an undercurrent of dark humour in many of the stories, often inspiring a smirk on the reader’s lips as the tale unfolds. A sense of disturbed reality occurs in stories that are told from various warped and invested points of view. This form of narrative has a pleasant but somewhat dizzying and disorientating effect on the reader. Although not every story in the anthology can be described as thrilling, and while several of the stories feature bizarre and questionable plots, the majority of the tales in this suspenseful compilation match the brief of its title.

Each of the stories in the collection features a varied and wide range of characters and ages, dispositions and intentions. These include Queen Elizabeth, rodeo stars, the spirit of a rather introspective dodo, and all sorts of children and diabolical adults, including some questionable little old ladies.

Many of the stories are set in Australia, although some are set in other countries or more fantastical and colourful locations. Ranging from actual places to cyber hovels, to the scene of an accident in Lights and Sirens by Rachael Mead, to deep within a cave in Fiona Robertson’s A Slow Exhalation, or even the cloying interior of a wardrobe, the stories take the reader to some dangerous and disturbing places.

Several of the narratives have a genuine sense of trepidation that’s heightened by the clever and fast-paced storytelling. Some of the stories take elements of childhood memories and warp them into more alarming and sinister recollections, such as McFraidy and the Goblin Spoon by Kate Shelley Gilbert and Keeping Mum by Ashleigh Hardcastle. The dire consequences of uncompromising love and friendship are explored in dangerous and graphic detail. The sanctity of marriage is scrutinised in stories such as Pillow by Elaine Cain, as is the misplaced devotion to family.

On completion of the anthology, it is at first difficult to feel a cohesion in the tales, apart from all the authors being Australian. Each of the stories seems to explore suspense and thrills in a very unique way. Some of the authors inspire foreboding and dread, others force issues that cause one to question ethics and morals, while others still use the simplicity of children to paint a tale of horror and calamity. Love and honour are fundamental to many of the narratives in the collection. These two elements are explored in many ways, from devotion to festering hate. Authors in this collection of short stories are not afraid to choose unsuspecting victims within their stories, nor the horrendous and unjust fate of some of the hapless characters that walk through their narratives. Perhaps the most enticing element of this anthology of self-proclaimed suspenseful stories is the diversity of the various authors’ visions of what a thriller is, and this creates a unification in the collection that isn’t immediately obvious but becomes present in the aftertaste of these narratives.

If you like your short stories to be thrilling, macabre and, above all, Australian, then this anthology might just be for you.

SYLVANA FERGUSON

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