Like a Chinese Tattoo, edited by Bill Breedlove
I must thank Dark Arts Books for recognizing the significance of short stories. From this recognition springs an anthology featuring four authors whose diverse tales allow us to peek into their mould-encrusted minds, sail through their cavernous labyrinths, and drop us back into the safety of our sofa cushions.
In "Tomorrow, When the Demons Come," Cullen Bunn features both the subtle and blatant dangers of jealousy. One can almost taste the death a stranger brings into the life of a farm family in his most complex story, "Remains." "Granny Kisses" is a revoltingly comical piece that made even my usual stomach of steel warp briefly once or twice.
Rick R. Reed's stories are probably the most varied in terms of style. Through the use of personal notes and flashbacks, he pays homage to Bram Stoker in "Purfleet." "Moving Toward the Light" uses the vengeance-from-beyond-the-grave theme to remind us that even those who literally end up in the gutter can find their way out again. And, with comic pathos, "Stung" tells the story of a middle-aged woman who can just never get things right.
Once again, David Thomas Lord displays his mastery of setting and atmosphere in his trio. The seemingly monochromatic "The White Room" leads to a startling conclusion. In keeping with his colour scheme, Lord introduces us to the legend of "The Great White Ape" in a story that reminded me of a cross between Poe and Jules Verne. Finally, "Da's Boy" does a great job of reinforcing my suspicion of young children.
I must be honest. I did not warm to J.A. Konrath's writing until I got past "The Confession." Although I could appreciate his ability to conjure novel ways of mutilating the human body, his story of violence and torture just didn't interest me. On the bright side, "The Necro Files" introduces us to Detective Harry McGlade. He's an arrogant, incompetent, insensitive jerk, but I liked him anyway, in small doses. "Punishment" features another young child facing his fear in another torture tale. Fortunately, the violence here is a bit more subtle.
Overall, the stories in Like a Chinese Tattoo offer a diverse taste of writings from authors with whose work I was mostly unfamiliar. Most anthologies feature one story from each of their many contributors. I'd recommend Like a Chinese Tattoo to those who appreciate the introduction to newer writers but would like a longer visit with them.