Book Review: nEvermore!: Tales of Murder, Mystery & the Macabre, Nancy Kilpatrick & Caro Soles, eds. (2015)

August 19th, 2015 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

There’s a piece by 16-year-old Margaret Atwood! Eeep!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. Trigger warning for rape and other forms of violence, as well as transphobic and homophobic bullying and suicide.)

I consider myself a bit of a Poe fangirl. Not to the tune of being able to reenact entire scenes from The Tomb of Ligeia or keeping a raven as a pet; but as in the first (and only!) gift my father every personally picked out for me was a leather-bound collection of Poe’s complete works (I’m vegan now, but I keep it around for sentimental reasons) and I might, one day, name one of my rescue dogs Annabel Lee. It’s fair to say that I’m interested, but not obsessed.

So when I spotted nEvermore! in Library Thing’s July batch, it was Poe’s name that grabbed by attention – but Margaret Atwood’s that really sealed the deal. If I’m a bit of a Poe fangirl, then I’m freaking Annie Wilkes when it comes to Atwood. I exaggerate, but not by much.

Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles, nEvermore!: Tales of Murder, Mystery & the Macabre features twenty-two stories that are inspired by Poe; contain elements from Poe’s oeuvre; and/or are retellings of his stories. Some are more modern takes on Poe, while others employ similar language and have the same weirdly sinister vibe. If you’re a hardcore Poe fan, probably you’ll get more out of the stories than the casual or non-fan; there’s a lot of name-dropping, as well as references to real, historical events from Poe’s life. However, I wouldn’t limit the audience just to those familiar with Poe; many of the stories are solid enough to stand on their own. Bonus points: Each story is prefaced with a brief introduction by the author(s), for added context.

And fellow Margaret Atwood fans? Definitely give it a spin, if only for “The Eye of Heaven” – written by a sixteen-year-old Margaret Atwood (!). Naturally she’s humble about her contribution (“‘The Eye of Heaven’ might not be very good, though it’s good enough for a sixteen-year-old”) but it’s among my favorites. I would pay to read her MadLibs, though, so grain of salt.

As with many anthologies, it’s a bit of a mixed bag; there are some truly wonderful stories here, a few I didn’t really care for, and a large chunk that fall somewhere in the middle. (I tried to avoid any major spoilers in the story summaries, but please skip them if you’d rather read the collection with virgin eyes.)

“A Rather Scholarly View of Edgar Allen Poe, Genre-Crosser” by Uwe Sommerlad – The title pretty much says it all. DNF, but mostly because I wasn’t in the mood to read a non-fiction essay about Poe. Just give me the stories please!

“The Gold Bug Conundrum” by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro – A wealthy video game developer buys a dilapidated estate on a Caribbean Island located in the Bermuda Triangle, as it’s rumored to be the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Gold Bug.” That, and hidden pirate treasure! Needless to say, the transaction doesn’t end well. 2/5 stars. The beginning reads like an HGTV script, and the climax is rather underwhelming.

“Street of the Dead House” by Robert Lopresti – When hunters murder his mom, the young orangutan Jupiter goes to live with the Professor, who meddles with his brain (presumably, to make him smarter) and teaches him to sign. A visiting sailor from France, taken with the friendly primate, kills the Professor and kidnaps Jupiter, hoping to sell him to a zoo in Paris. When Jupiter refuses to cooperate, the two hatch a plan to steal an elderly lady’s gold so that Jupiter can pay his fare back to Borneo. 5/5 stars. Jupiter gives me all the feels, you guys.

“Naomi” by Christopher Rice – The narrator’s niece, a young trans woman, committed suicide after the bullying at school became too much to bear. Yet her ringtone – a bouncy pop number that triggered the worst of the abuse – lives on, driving her tormentors to take their own lives as well. 5/5 stars.

“Finding Ulalume” by Lisa Morton – The narrator’s sister Anna went missing in Weir Forest when they were just twelve and thirteen years old. Decades have passed, and the narrator – now a search and rescue volunteer – has been summoned to the forest to find a missing team of surveyors. 4/5 stars.

“Obsession with the Bloodstained Door” by Rick Chiantaretto – As a child, the narrator becomes lost in a sinister, mysterious mansion; in his many years of wandering, he’s only encountered one locked door that he cannot breach. It becomes his obsession. 3/5 stars.

“The Lighthouse” by Barbara Fradkin – It’s 1942 and World War II rages on. 18-year-old Sammy, an aspiring writer, is sent to help his uncle maintain the lighthouse on Quirpon Island (Newfoundland). One foggy night, Uncle Nat goes missing – and a strange soldier (a Nazi deserter?) washes up on the shore. Is this a case of life mimicking art? The story features a frustratingly abrupt ending, just like the original. 4/5 stars.

“The Masques of Amanda Llado” by Thomas S. Roche – A disgruntled music critic lures his ex-boss – a postmodern frat boy from a failed tech startup – to his basement warehouse with the promise of a rare Amanda Llado album. Needless to say, none of us will miss the dudebro. 5/5 stars.

“Atargatis” by Robert Bose – Star’s great-grandfather passes away, leaving her a locket that bears the face of a mermaid – and contains a mysterious key. His last word to her? “Atargatis.” 5/5 stars.

“The Ravens of Consequence” by Carol Weekes and Michael Kelly – An old hermit is plagued by memories of a family he never had. Or did he? 4/5 stars.

“Annabel Lee” by Nancy Holder – A retelling of “Annabel Lee” from Annabel’s perspective, this story also incorporates some elements from Poe’s other works. 5/5 stars.

“Dinner with Mamalou” by J. Madison Davis – The CEO of the Makadam Energy (evil megacorp incarnate!) agrees to a sit-down dinner with Mrs. Bertrand, aka “Mamalou,” the matriarch of the backwater town she calls home. On the menu: a discussion of the six deaths in St. Germain Parish since the company began fracking there. Also: revenge! 3/5 stars. The villains are a little too cartoonish for me.

“The Deave Lane” by Michael Jecks – An archaeologist’s worst nightmare comes true when she’s called to investigate a body found buried in the mors – and stumbles right into the midst of a pagan death cult. 3/5 stars.

“133” by Richard Christian Matheson – The Resurrectionist’s Guide to the Death Penalty. 3/5 stars.

“Afterlife” by William F. Nolan, Jason V. Brock, and Sunni K. Brock – Explores “the idea that Poe could become trapped in the physical space of his own letters” – specifically, those thought to be forged by Rufus Griswold and burned by Charles Leland. 3/5 stars.

“The Drowning City” by Loren Rhoads – How to outwit a siren using modern technology. The futuristic look at Venice is both lovely and heartbreaking. 3/5 stars.

“The Orange Cat” by Kelley Armstrong – An abused cat refuses to cast his one good eye away from his cruel owner – even after he’s been euthanized and had his bashed in as part of a double murder. Gabriel Walsh (of Armstrong’s Cainsville series) is on the case. 4/5 stars.

“The Inheritance” by Jane Petersen Burfield – Annabel the raven exacts her revenge on the boys responsible for her death – from beyond the grave. 3/5 stars.

“Sympathetic Impulses” by David McDonald – In trying to uncover how a captured spy withstands torture, an Inquisitor unwittingly becomes the means by which he does so. 3/5 stars.

“Asylum” by Colleen Anderson – A vamp with a taste for the crazies happens upon an asylum that’s been taken over by the lunatics. 3/5 stars.

“The Return of Berenice” by Tanith Lee – A retelling of “Berenice” in which the titular bride is actually a vampire – and Egaeus has condemned his cousin to a fate worse than (un)death by stealing her most valuable asset. 3/5 stars.

“The Eye of Heaven” by Margaret Atwood – A young man is haunted by the eyes of those he’s killed – fishes and family members alike. 5/5 stars. It’s Margaret Fucking Atwood, yo!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

 

Comments (May contain spoilers!)

Diversity: Out of 22 stories, 5 feature diverse characters. Only in the first two stories are the roles prominent ones.

“Naomi” is a lovely and heartbreaking story about a young trans woman who commits suicide. Not only was she bullied mercilessly by her classmates, Naomi received little support from her mother – an addict who’s later put on suicide watch herself – who locks her in the closet while she cuts up her dresses and other feminine clothing. The narrator, her uncle, is gay.

In “The Masques of Amanda Llado,” the titular character may or may not be a trans man; it’s kind of unclear. There’s a lot of gender ambiguity and genderplay going on here. Also, Amanda Llado is Latina – or at least her surname is (“It’s Spanish.”).

The detective from “Street of the Dead House,” Auguste Dupin, “lives in a ruined house with his boyfriend, I suppose.”

In “Finding Ulalume,” the narrator rescues a grandfather (Henry) with Alzheimer’s. One of the detectives, Cheng, is Asian.

Father Robert, the parish priest in “Dinner with Mamalou,” is black.

Animal-friendly elements: A few. In Margaret Atwood’s “The Eye of Heaven,” a man is haunted by the eyes of those he’s killed – fishes and family members alike. In fact, it all begins with the glassy eye of a trout.

Nonhuman animals exact revenge on their abusers in “The Orange Cat” and “The Inheritance.”

“Street of the Dead House” stars an orangutan named Jupiter, who’s highly intelligent and can communicate via sign. When hunters slayed his mother, he went to live with the Professor, who both experimented on and trained him. A visiting sailor kills the Professor and kidnaps Jupiter, taking him to France in hopes of selling him to a zoo or university. When Jupiter – upon realizing what happened – refuses to sign for his prospective buyers, the two hatch a scheme for a heist, so that Jupiter can pay his way back to Borneo and the sailor has something to show for his misdeeds. When the robbery goes wrong, Jupiter resigns himself to life as a silent “beast” as a form of repentance.

 

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