Although they say that you should never judge a book by its cover, Malcolm Devlin’s debut collection sets its stall out perfectly with the creepy image flashed across its front. A hand caked in dirt and mud is pulled over a clean hand like a glove, as if the goodness and purity is being covered over in an instant. And for many of the stories inside this fantastic cover, that would be a perfect description. Devlin’s tales, for the most part, exist in what seems like a safe and ordinary world, until something more sinister and dangerous is layered over the top.
With a mix of horror and fantasy among the ten stories on show here, Devlin displays a rare talent for switching styles and genres while maintaining a distinctive identity. But it’s the stories that deal in shocks and scares that really shine. ‘Two Brothers’, a tale about a young man who looks forward to his brother returning from boarding school only to find a withered and wasted version of him in the woods, is a particular highlight. ‘We all Need Somewhere to Hide’ is another that deserves a mention. It might take a more comedic approach to the horror genre but that doesn’t stop it from having a disturbing ending that will return to you when you lay you head on the pillow at night. Other highlights feature werewolves that never know when they will become werewolves again and a family forever altered by their appearance on a long-running reality show.
Any Cop?: There are definitely fewer disappointing moments than there are ones to get excited about. And some of the best stories are really superb. A couple of the more fantastical pieces don’t hit the mark to quite the same degree but that shouldn’t be enough to put you off shelling out for this impressive debut work.