“Haunted”, the debut anthology of FR Press, delivers an excellently paced collection of mysterious and terrifying tales. The collection focuses on stories about hauntings and the ghost hunters that investigate them. All eleven stories in “Haunted” possess their own merits, and are distinct enough that the anthology avoids the pitfall of having eleven different stories trying to do the same thing.
Typically I am not a fan of anthologies. Usually when I set aside time to read I want to be able to delve into a novel and lose myself for a few hours. The constant shifting of gears and restarting that occurs as you move from story to story in an anthology always makes me feel tossed about. “Haunted” however, has avoided (or the very least minimized) this problem for me. The eleven stories in the collection are laid out in such a way that it feels like you are traveling through an entire pot arc, not just eleven short, disparate plots.
“Haunted” begins with the almost Sherlock Holmesian tale of haunting and mystery “What’s the Frequency, Francis?” from veteran author Alex Bledsoe. From there the stories build in both mystery and creepiness. The fourth story in the collection, “A Quiet House in the Country” by Bill Bodden, marks a noticeable increase in the action, fright, and danger that the characters in “Haunted”’s tales are facing. The action and danger build to a bloody horror movie climax in the collections seventh story, “After Life”. The final four stories of “Haunted” gradually lessen the body toll and bloodletting ending with two wonderfully crafted tales of frightening redemption and closure in “Missing Molly” and “The Angry Stick” (by Alana Joli Abbot and Preston P. DuBose respectively) . The attention and careful thought that editor Monica Valentelli put into arranging the stories in “Haunted” pays off as it the only anthology I have ever been able to read (and enjoy) in a single sitting.
The scare factor, or at the very least suspense factor, in “Haunted” is palpable. There is a moment in every story where I found myself either unsure of what was going to happen, or if the main character was going to make it out alive (which in some cases they didn’t). One thing that helps the scare factor is that only a couple of the stories in “Haunted” initially come off as formulaic (“After Life” and “What’s the Frequency, Francis?”). As such I found myself never quite sure what twist the ending might bring. In more than one instance I was surprised to the point of verbal reaction.
For the record, I read both the ePUB and PDF versions of “Haunted” on a ten-inch netbook running Adobe Digital Editions and an Android phone running the Aldiko app. “Haunted” displayed perfectly on both of my devices and did not have any annoying formatting or DRM issues that can sometimes plague an ebook. I found the ePUB version was easier on the eyes on both devices, though the PDF was readable enough.
At the extremely reasonable price of $4.99, “Haunted” is worth adding to any ghost or horror buffs collection. If you like imaginative, tightly constructed short stories, “Haunted” will certainly entertain you as it sends a shiver down your spine. Lastly, if you’re anything like me, “Haunted” just might be the first anthology you enjoy reading from cover to cover.
[4 of 5 Stars!]