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Book Review: In A Corner, Darkly: Short Stories to Horrify, Shock and Disturb (Volume 1)

In A Corner, Darkly: Short Stories to Horrify, Shock and Disturb (Volume 1). Sue Rovens. Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing, October 11, 2012, Trade Paperback, 162 pages.

Reviewed by Meghan Owen.

“Sue Rovens brings original chills in In A Corner, Darkly.”

Sue Rovens achieves what she set out to do, giving familiar grisly tales an original bent in her short story collection, In a Corner, Darkly. The devil on the farm, mysterious ailments, kids trespassing in a graveyard, a very, very angry ex-girlfriend, and so on—all of these tropes and more are revisited in Rovens’s work and given a dark twist that makes you finish what you started.

In a Corner, Darkly has long been a goal of Rovens, who has loved the genre of horror since childhood. She decided to self-publish her debut story collection after her mother’s death, when, as she describes it, she realized that if she wanted to live her dream as an author of dark tales, she should seize the present.

Though the fifteen chilly stories bear the marks of a new writer, the content is delightfully original. Not one of the pages is predictable. One particular story, “An Affair to Remember,” may have an ending you can guess, but the conclusion is not what makes the tale frightening. Its most horrifying aspect is the deeply uncomfortable way Rovens describes the obsessive perversion of a deluded necrophiliac, not the reveal of the corpse.

Another example of a particularly unique approach to horror is Rovens’s story “Games People Play.” Instead of running in the supernatural or gruesome themes of the rest of the collection, “Games People Play” focuses on sexual harassment in the school environment. Mr. Hiller, a fifth grade teacher, likes to touch his female students, and the protagonist of the story, Kelly Wilson, wants to stand up to him. The terror in this tale lies solely in Kelly’s hopelessness to end abuse when no one will believe her; even the few who do believe her don’t think it’s necessarily a problem. If you want a story to keep you up at night, “Games People Play” is the one for you.

If there is anything that keeps Rovens’s words from leaping off the page, it is a certain lack of finesse in her phrasing and some overly strong reveals. There are moments where she would have done better to linger and make a longer story in order to do her plot justice. There are also some anomalies that serve more to confuse than to scare, like the King of Pests, “Mr. Whiskers.”

Yet despite some kinks in the plot and whatever lack of poetry, In a Corner, Darkly is a fabulously original collection of tales that will hold the reader’s interest to the last blood splatter. Stories like “Skin,” “Prison,” and “Pray, Beardstown, Pray” (the delightfully freaky opener of the book) will give you a simultaneous sensation of disquiet and thrill. Looking to be disturbed in new ways? Get a copy of In a Corner, Darkly by Sue Rovens and invest in a night-light. 

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