“A pair of disturbing novellas from the master of ‘the literary uncanny’.
In ‘Jack Squat’, unemployed Gordon and his partner Omar see a money-making opportunity helping expats buy homes in southern Italy. But their scheme catches up with them after the first home they sell, curiously built with four entrances but no connecting doors inside, is revealed to have a dark history.
In ‘The Niche’, mercilessly bullied schoolboy Billy Lender finds a hiding place in a nook in the school corridor and begins to hear whispers: the voice of a mysterious friend who will help him to plot a devastating revenge.”
When a call goes out on Twitter for book bloggers who like to indulge in the darker side of fiction, I leap arms waving, into action. Well, I leap thanks to a lovely book blogger friend tagging me (thanks Kate!). I adore horror fiction but don’t tend to indulge as often as I’d like. So I jumped at the opportunity to read this novella of two short dark tales.
The first thing to say is that the paperback version of this book is gorgeous. Both stories have their own cover and you need to flip the book over to see the cover of The Niche. ‘Not much good for reading, though’ you may be saying to yourself. Not the case I can assure you. The stories are back to back. The reader can read their first story of choice (in my case Jack Squat) and when finished flip the book over, open the cover of The Niche and off you go again. My daughter thought I’d finally lost the plot when she saw me reading what she thought was a book upside down!
My preferred story of the two was The Niche. My heart ached for terrified schoolboy, Billy Lender, as the bullies wore him down with their cruel, brutish behaviour. My heart sank even further when Billy began to hear voices. Never a good thing in horror fiction!
Jack Squat felt as though it’s meant to be the lead story in the collection. I enjoyed it but found certain aspects of the piece bordering on comical. It may be because I have children and certain bodily functions are hilarious rather than, well, anything else but I couldn’t help but giggle a little. It is dark, it’s quite gory in places but it didn’t win me over as much as The Niche did.
Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s a very quick read which I finished off one Sunday afternoon while the kids were hurtling around the local soft play! I think I had expected a little more ‘dark’ than I actually got but that tends to be the case with most books I read. I enjoyed the author’s style and would read another of his books if the opportunity arose in the future. Enjoyable but didn’t knock my socks off.
Three and a half stars out of five.
I chose to read and review an ARC of Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche by Charles Lambert were published in the UK by the Aarkvark Bureau on 16th October 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |
Charles Lambert was born in the United Kingdom but has lived in Italy for most of his adult life. His latest novel, The Children’s Home, described by Kirkus Reviews as ‘a one-of-a-kind literary horror story’, is set in neither country. Earlier books include three novels, a collection of prize-winning short stories and a memoir, With a Zero at its Heart, selected by the Guardian as one of its top ten books from 2014.