Halloween Carnival Volume 3 – Brian James Freeman (editor)

Spoilers Ahead!

πŸŽƒ Horrificent Halloween Book! πŸŽƒ

N.B. Horrificent is totally a word (at least it is in my world and it’s my review so you’re in my world now whether you like it or not) and should be imagined as a unique blend of horrific and magnificent.

Halloween Carnival Volume 3 is the third of five volumes of short stories being released in time for Halloween. While I promise you I know how to count I didn’t feel like reading something the length of a novella when I started Volume 2 and then got sucked into these stories.

The Way Lost by Kelley Armstrong – πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

I absolutely loved this story. It was short but grabbed me from the first sentence – “Every Halloween, one child in Franklin lost his way and never came home.” Children in Franklin know not to go near the forest on Halloween night. Dale, however, can’t help himself. He watches at the edge of the forest, hoping to solve the mystery of how Franklin’s children lose their way, a mystery no one talks about. The creepy atmosphere in this story and the enticing dread had me wanting to sit by the edge of the forest to dare myself to uncover what was really happening to the children of this town. I need to read more by this author!

La Calavera by Kate Maruyama – πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

Trish works hard on her calavera for this year’s DΓ­a de los Muertos Festival at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. She attended each year with her roommate of five years, Jasmine (pronounced Yasmeen). On the day of the Festival Trish receives a phone call at work from Hector, who is supposed to still be in jail. This is a tale of binge-watching, waffles, family, obsession and letting go. I worked out how this story was going to play out fairly early but I still really enjoyed it.

The Devil’s Due by Michael McBride – πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

Building the initial dread into full blown panic and then hovering around desperation for the rest of the story, this one blew me away. Taking place in Pine Springs, Colorado, this town was founded in 1867 and has a long history of prosperity. Huddled in their ranch on the evening of 30 October, Thom and Tammy silently wait, hoping against hope that this isn’t their year. Their daughter and son are asleep upstairs, unaware of the danger that infiltrates their postcard perfect community this night every year. This year there’s a bloody handprint on the Martin’s door and soon the mayor and chief of police will be coming to collect Thom so he can do his duty. I’m going to be checking out this author’s other work for sure.

A Thousand Rooms of Darkness by Taylor Grant – πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

Anne has phasmophobia (fear of ghosts) and samhainophobia (fear of Halloween), and with good reason. Panic attacks and phobias have contributed to the breakdown of Anne’s previous relationships so she is understandably terrified of telling the new love of her life, Evan, of her crippling fears. But this year her haunting starts early. I enjoyed the buildup to Halloween and the increased fear Anne faces. I loved the initial twist but the final wrap up felt a tad rushed.

The Last Night of October by Greg Chapman – πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

Gerald sits in his wheelchair, oxygen mask affixed trying to deliver its breath to his emphysema affected lungs, watching the front door. He keeps watch every Halloween night until dawn, waiting for it to come. It comes every Halloween without fail. This Halloween Gerald can’t avoid it. This novella started with such promise but I found a key component of the story implausible. It jarred me out of the lovely flow I was in and I never got my momentum back.

While I had no problems with the crossroads and what the boys found there I didn’t believe that Martha could so easily convince Gerald to kill his friend. They were best friends and yes, I understand they were kids and terrified, but even if that was always going to be the outcome I would have expected a longer exchange between the three characters before the murder occurred.

My favourites in this collection were The Way Lost and The Devil’s Due. I think The Devil’s Due may have won in the photo finish but both stories had me taking note of who wrote them so I can explore their work further.

The overall theme that runs through these stories is that things are not always what they seem and while I’d expect this in Halloween tales, there’s bloodshed in each of them. While I’ve only read two of the five volumes so far I much preferred this one overall than Volume 1. I loved that even after working out that all of these stories had elements where things were not as they seemed, there were still some where I didn’t pick up on the twist until after it happened.

Content warnings include mental illness and suicide.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Hydra for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kelley Armstrong, Kate Maruyama, Michael McBride, Taylor Grant, and Greg Chapman unleash the unsettled spirits of the past in five frightening stories collected by celebrated editor, author, and horror guru Brian James Freeman.

THE WAY LOST by Kelley Armstrong
The kids in Franklin don’t ask questions. Each Halloween, one of them disappears into the forest. Dale promised his mother he’d never go into the woods alone. But the kids in Franklin also lie.

LA CALAVERA by Kate Maruyama
The DΓ­a de los Muertos Festival at the Hollywood Cemetery used to be ours. Now, without Jasmine, it’s only right that I go one last time in her honour – before I let her go for good
…

THE DEVIL’S DUE by Michael McBride
Pine Springs, Colorado, has prospered for generations by honoring its traditions and its promises. Then one man refuses to do his civic duty – and the price he must pay is fatally steep.

A THOUSAND ROOMS OF DARKNESS by Taylor Grant
Samhainophobia: an irrational fear of Halloween. Phasmophobia: an irrational fear of ghosts. For Anne, these terrors are more rational than she knows.

THE LAST NIGHT OF OCTOBER by Greg Chapman
Every year, one little boy wearing a grotesque Frankenstein mask comes knocking at Gerald’s door. Gerald has always managed to avoid him … until this year. 

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