Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 28, 2020
A horror anthology full of revenge stories: how could I go wrong? Dig Two Graves:An Anthology Vol. II presents a wide variety of horror styles, and this becomes a negative. When I hang out on social media and people ask for horror book recs, 99% of the time they’re asking after a certain style: atmospheric, creepy, outdoorsy, extreme (“torture-porn”), gritty urban horror, etc. Most of this book is in the creepy, moderately violent vein, and then out of nowhere there’s an extremely graphic story. Given that different people tend to like vastly different horror styles, it might have been better to save that story for another anthology. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m okay with lots of blood and guts as long as it feels like it serves the story, rather than the other way around.
Content note: Well I mentioned the one “extreme horror” story, so you know there’s over-the-top violence and sex right there. Other random things from other stories: slurs, domestic violence, animal harm, sexual content, child death, rape, partner rape, and quasi-incest.
In Wesley Southard’s “Catalog,” Andy Ricci has plenty of reason to want revenge on more than one person. When he receives a mysterious catalog in the mail, he becomes obsessed with it. But he won’t let his wife, Donna, see what’s in it. (Mild plot point: Donna’s on crutches and has a hard time walking, but she “leapt over” a body at one point.)
Cameron Trost’s “It Starts with Insects” was intriguing, but it doesn’t fulfill the actual act of revenge–it ends too early. What’s that about??
Gerri R. Gray’s “Ailurophobia” (extreme fear of cats) involves a house full of cats and their dead owner. When a single father and his daughter move in, she wants a kitten like the one that shows up on her windowsill–but her father is very upset by the idea. The narrative has odd pacing, and some of the disturbances in the house seem a bit odd or random.
Cameron Kirk’s “The Writer” has a man being interviewed by a writer about a horrible event in his life and the things that came afterward. This is told as if we’re hearing everything the old man says to the writer, but none of the replies. It really works well.
Mawr Gorshin’s “Violation” disappointed me. A naked woman emerges from the woods in front of a car with three young men in it, and they immediately rape and kill her. (We’re given to understand later in the story that this is not unusual behavior for any random car full of men?) Unfortunately I can’t really get into my beef with it without spoiling everything.
Susan E. Abramski’s “Spider Lace” introduced us to a Dr. Matthew Crandall, who’s trying to make a hybridized type of spider silk that will replace many items we use today. When one of his spiders starts talking to him, things get weird. This one is a little clumsy, and there’s too much speechifying on the spider’s part. The action portions of the story are good, though.
Mark Lumby’s “Into the Clouds” sees Peter and his father, Henry, going up in a hot air balloon. Only Henry starts acting very strangely. This is… an odd one. It definitely has a really horrifying moment in it.
Lucas Milliron’s “Meat” was… silly. The main character, Trent, is the most over-the-top, ridiculous stereotype of the painfully, destructively self-righteous vegan chef. He’s a buffoon, really, and it detracts from what could have otherwise been a genuinely horrifying story. He keeps super-gluing offensive posters over the window of a nearby restaurant that serves meat, and is driving that restaurant’s chef-owner, Carver, mad. One little hole: how is Trent still moving and acting like normal for hours after having a boiling soup poured over his legs?
David L. Tamarin’s “What Did You Do to the Children?” is the “extreme” horror story that seems so out of place in this volume. A depraved man and a depraved woman meet each other at a movie theater, start torture-killing people together, and then the man’s equally depraved past comes into play. There are a handful of little plot holes throughout it–it feels like the author was so focused on the violence that he wasn’t really worried about the other details adding up.
Lori Tiron-Pandit’s “The Maiden of the Triangle” is an unusual story about a forest spirit that gets disturbed by people cutting down her trees, and how her curse wends its way into the lives touched by her. This one is a little relaxed in its pace, and I liked the concept.
Pete Mesling’s “InPerson” starts with Gerald receiving a video chat from his ex-wife, Patricia. It seems like someone has attacked her, and he has to figure out where she is and save her. He recruits an old friend of his to help him track down the location, and things get interesting. The direction revenge takes may not be what you’re expecting.
G. Allen Wilbanks’ “Abandoned” gives us a typical-and-satisfying tale of revenge after a young woman is raped and killed in an abandoned house.
Thomas Vaughn’s “The Tulpa” introduces us to serial killer Tommy Velasco, and his starry-eyed fanbase (“Velasco’s Vixens”). I’m a bit surprised that the judge lets him wear sunglasses at his own trial, which makes for a certain plot-hole (he has a mirror hidden in them that lets him watch the young women at the back of the courtroom).
“The Ninja and the Night” is authored by Sergio “ente per ente” Palumbo, and edited by Michele Dutcher. It’s… odd. The writing style is very new to me. It’s interesting, but also awkward. A ninja must enter a very well-guarded mansion in order to ruin the life of the daimyo. The background and method involved is where things get interesting.
Duane Bradley’s “Seymour Must Be Destroyed” didn’t really appeal to me. Walter Krelborn’s undersized penis (named Seymour) runs away to Hollywood, and Walter, along with a woman he meets, must defeat Seymour as he develops more and more power. It’s… mostly just surreal and silly, and I’m not really sure how it fits in a revenge-themed book.
David Owain Hughes’ “For the Love of Shakespeare” is an interesting story. Edmund must look after his half-man, half-monster brother Edgar, who is also insane and, before he was chained in the attic, used to eat children.
Finally, “The Pain, the Heat, the Blood,” by Betty Rocksteady, is surreal and odd. A woman is trying to hide away from everyone, and she’s living in her dead father’s house. When her brother shows up and is abusive, things get bizarre.
This isn’t my favorite horror anthology, and there are a few stories that feel out of place. But it has some good stuff in it as well.