Janine Pipe week continues, and today I’m reviewing her debut horror short story collection, Twisted: Tainted Tales.
An abandoned house. A locked desk drawer full of old papers. And an 80’s mix tape?
Jill is tasked with seeking out any legal documents from the property.
What she discovers, transports her into a world of nightmares, ranging from the macabre to the downright chilling. Jill knows she has to share the stories she’s uncovered …
In Twisted: Tainted Tales, the Splatterpunk Award-nominee delivers creature features, supernatural urban legends, cannibalism and a few other surprises. Mixing flash fiction with short stories, these tales might be tainted and will be twisted.
This is not a collection of horror short stories. This is an experience. Look at that cover, mimicking a video tape sleeve (whatever they are!), and rest assured that the inside of the book is just as beautiful, exciting and fun!
Pipe has structured each short story around the framing device of Jill, a lawyer, who has found the stories after the disappearance of the author, and presents them to the reader with a short introduction. I loved this found footage style addition, which reminded me both of the works of authors such as Lovecraft and Rider Haggard, as well as anthology movies such as VHS.
At the end of each story, the author includes a short note about her inspiration, or provides some background on the writing of the tale. I loved reading these notes and finding out about the author and her process.
The stories are named after songs, and while I didn’t listen to them as I read, I think they would make a great mix tape.
Before I review each story, I will mention that they are full of references to other writers and pop culture. These Easter eggs had me squealing with delight. I haven’t had so much fun reading a collection in a long time.
The first story, Footsteps, has been nominated for a splatterpunk award. I didn’t find it particularly splatterpunk, but it is a great story.
Friends Becky, Felicity and Liz go into the woods for some bonding, but the woods have other ideas.
This excellent story is reminiscent of the movies The Descent and Dog Soldiers, a fact that others have picked up on as the author mentions in her note. A comparison to two such great movies can only be a compliment, and with Footsteps, it is.
The second story, When Doves Cry, is a Bluebeardesque fairytale about a young woman who accepts the apparent kindness of a stranger. It’s a lovely flash piece with a chilling ending.
I Want to Break Free plays around with point of view as we get to see the same experience from the perspective of both the hunter and the hunted.
While I found this story a little bit predictable, I love how Pipe writes about vampires and werewolves.
Next comes Maneater, where two cops investigate a series of grisly deaths that can only be perpetuated by a monster. Pipe’s background in law enforcement lends solid ground to this fun tale.
Not to my tastes, Addicted to Love is a simple story of sex and death. While well written, I didn’t find it as fun as the previous stories.
Sweet Child O Mine is one of my favorite stories concerning a family vacation and an imaginary friend. It encapsulates what I like best about Pope’s writing – interesting characters, good setup and the perfect mix of humor and horror.
Tainted Love took me back to my student days and the endless bus trips. I like how this story plays with perceptions and makes you look deeper.
Lost in the Shadows is full of in jokes and horror references, and the title alone had me singing the theme to Lost Boys in my head.
While this tale of missing children had an obvious denouement, I enjoyed the journey.
It’s a Sin perfectly describes the friendship of two lonely little boys, Sam and Jack. One of my favorite stories of the collection, the events are chilling, and the story leaves you pondering what you would have done in the characters place.
A fun flash piece with an ambiguous ending, I’d love to see Love is a Battlefield expanded into a longer narrative.
A ghost coach, Halloween and lustful teenagers – Running with the Devil has all the right ingredients for a great story, and it is!
I loved the legend of Trent Barrow (based on a true story), and I could empathize with the main character’s desire to see it for herself. Of course, we should be careful what we wish for, as we just might get it.
Oh dear, Paradise City didn’t work for me, I’m afraid. Inspired by The Special, I found it irredeemably vulgar and couldn’t find the themes that the author was aiming for.
In Schools Out Forever we follow two girls sneaking into an abandoned building with a horrible history. Despite the paranormal element, the true horror is provided by the humans in the story.
Even though it’s a revenge story, there was a lot I liked about Living on a Prayer. Once again Pipe delivers a great setup with realistic characters and an emotional exchange between a parent and child.
In Bones of Boarded up Baby Bodies Behind the Bath Panel we are once again presented with a ghost story, when two boys break into a supposedly haunted house late at night.
Retreading ground that had already been covered in stories such as Its A Sin and Schools Out Forever, I didn’t find it as engaging as the previous tales, although the characters of the boys are well done.
There is something ominous about a countdown, and this is used to great effect in the slow, creeping horror of Nobody’s Fool. I enjoyed being left to ponder the questions what if? and why? at the end of the story.
With more than a few nods to King, and IT in particular, there’s something lurking in a storm drain in They. I enjoy a good origin story, and there was a lot to like about this creature feature.
I award Twisted: Tainted Tales…
About the Author
Trading a police badge for a pen, Janine cites her life-long love of horror as the catalyst for creating crazy and creepy stories.
She has been published in several anthologies and has just released her debut short story collection, Twisted: Tainted Tales.
Footsteps, which appears in the NHS charity anthology Diabolicca Britannica, has been nominated for a 2020 Splatterpunk Award.
When she isn’t writing, Janine is also an editor and publicist for Kandisha Press, a reviewer for Scream Magazine, Horror DNA and Night Worms and even a podcaster and booktuber.
She is also a wife and mum and loves coffee and trips to Walt Disney World.
You can follow author Janine Pipe on the following social media:
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