Title: Afraid of the Light
Authors: Rachael Blok, Heather Critchlow, Elle Croft, James Delargy, Clare Empson, Jo Furniss, N.J. Mackay, S.R. Masters, Phoebe Morgan, Dominic Nolan, Robert Scragg, Victoria Selman, Kate Simants, Adam Southward
Publication date: 28 April 2020
Genre: the best anthology of darkness you can find
Number of pages: 121
Rating: 5 stars (buy it now)
Some people are scared of the dark. But it’s the light that exposes the secrets.
A young boy with nightmares faces up to his demons. A deathbed confession turns the world on its axis. A five-year-old watches his parents bury a body in the garden. A soldier returns from the war to find the horror isn’t yet over.
Afraid Of The Light brings the imagination of fourteen bestselling crime writers together in a collection that will keep you up all night. From a deadly campfire game to a holiday gone wrong, to an AI assistant with a motive and a love affair that can only end in murder, this is a gripping, twisty set of stories to send a shiver down your spine.
What are you afraid of? Fourteen crime fiction authors explore some of our deepest fears and put them into words.
I find the words anthology and short stories daunting. An anthology means you are going to get a taste of different settings, writing styles, characters. What if the flow of stories doesn’t work? What if I get so invested in an author’s particular story and then get frustrated? Short stories mean writers have so few pages to convince the reader. Even if I usually give a book fifty pages to hook me, short stories get even less, so what happens if the magic isn’t immediate?
Yet, when I was asked to read Afraid of the Light, I didn’t hesitate. I hear you. “How?!? She just said she wasn’t sure about both anthologies and short stories! This woman is crazy!” I am not! Well, I am, in a good way. So why I did I say yes to this project?
One. The authors themselves. I have known most of them and have read some or most of their work. I know, I am a chicken, but when it comes to satisfying my criminal thirst in a short amount of time, it is difficult for me to take risks. Still, there were a few names I had yet to discover, and let’s be honest, we readers are generally curious. I wanted the thrill of a blend of familiarity and novelty. I wanted the unknown. Guess what, I got it!
Two. The reason behind the anthology. All royalties are donated to Samaritans. Mental health is precious, and we need to take care of it more than ever. I am grateful fourteen talented authors took from their time and evil minds to help in their own way.
Now that you know why this anthology found itself on my reading list, let me tell a little more about its content.
Fourteen short stories. Fourteen different kind of shivers. I know, I didn’t know it was possible, but they did it! Let’s have a look! I have decided not to say much about the stories themselves. I prefer to focus on how they made me feel in the hope it sparks an irrepressible urge to buy Afraid of the Light as soon as you’re done reading my review!
Are You Listening by Adam Southward
New author to me! I was excited as a kid on their birthday when I realized Adam had chosen and nailed a subject I’m particularly close to. They say we control technology, we own it… Do we? I have so much love for this entrée!!!
Daddy Dearest by Dominic Nolan
This author has the best lines. And his very own definition of evil. I’m still shivering. It’s not fear, it’s… deeper. Stronger. Darker.
Deathbed, Beth Dead by Elle Croft
Life’s gifts can be a curse. How my heart broke and filled with a bitterness I never knew I had in me! Efficient, heartbreaking, and bound to leave a trace.
Loveable Alan Atcliffe by S R Masters
This one really disturbed me. Oh loveable Alan… Don’t we all have skeletons in the closet?
Sleep Time by Phoebe Morgan
Phoebe Morgan, thank you. I had to leave my little electric candles on after reading your story right before bedtime!
Coming Home by N J Mackay
A different kind of fear. Life after a nightmare. The coldness and the loneliness oozed from the pages and my fingers gripped the Kindle a little tighter. Can the light find you in the dark?
Sausage Fingers by Victoria Selman
I owe Victoria Selman a newly found distrust for sausage fingers and those I love the most. They say parents have the answer to everything. They are here to show us the way. Never has it been so true!
Just a Game by Rachael Blok
Probably the story which felt the ‘scariest’ to me. Scary in the purest form. Just detailed enough to tickle the part of your brain that is fascinated by how things can go wrong in the blink of an eye.
Drowning in Debt by Heather Critchlow
The best plans always have a flaw! How I loved this domestic nightmare, the passion and the strength behind it!
To Evil or Not to Evil by Jo Furniss
First, brilliant title! Second, my nightmare come true. Imagine having a constantly updated feed telling others what you feel! How do relationship evolve from this when you can’t hide what’s inside, get time to think? I felt like the character in the story, a real prisoner in a free world. No privacy, nowhere to hide, and robots to take over… I was furious, frightened, with a feeling of unease filling my lungs and limbs! Brrr!
Sheep’s Clothing by Robert Scragg
Beautiful, cunning, absolutely devastating. I loved being tricked by the author, getting the hint, and taking a second to ask myself where I stood at the end of the story.
Frantic by Clare Empson
Domestic bliss pushed to the edge. Probably one of my favorite stories, if I was able to choose a favorite.
Planting Nan by James Delargy
Family love always blossoms… Another favorite! See, I am unable to pick one. Disturbing doesn’t even cover this one. James uses the most innocent thing on earth – a child (not my saying, I find kids to be little monsters) and puts him in the middle of a very special gardening lesson.
Shadow by Kate Simants
A real punch to the stomach! A narrative that just seeped into my mind, giving me a rush of adrenaline, until I reached the end and my mind went Boom.
There is such diversity in those stories that I couldn’t stop reading. Minutes flew by while I jumped from one nightmare to the next, printing Polaroid pictures of each monster in my mind, the power of the different writing sealing the evil behind my eyes.
Afraid of the Light is the perfect example of what an anthology is about – forces coming together to create a universe with doors to worlds all ready to make the reader feel. Every word in each short story is perfect, the balance between each author is pure, the result is an entertaining and engaging read. But this team has done more than just throw crazy ideas around. They address difficult matters, they force you to look in the mirror and see what is lurking in the shadows. They hold your hand while you visit unsettling truths and discover more than fear – justice, guilt, unconditional love. All those emotions and notions that can lead us to take a step back from the light and meet the shadows. We all have a shadow. What is yours?
Thank you to Alex North of a fantastic foreword!
I would like to thank the team for inviting me to be part of the celebrations for this amazing project. This review is my unbiased opinion.
Now go grab your copy!!! Here!