Open Grave: The Book Of Horror
by Jeani Rector
Reviewed by Susie Hawes

When I first opened the envelope sent to me by New Myths, I spotted the great cover art, chock full of wonderfully creepy pictures that reminded me of Jose Guadalupe Posada's Day of the Dead  "calaveras" drawings, or something out of an old "Tales of the Crypt" comic. Rendered in black and white, it danced like the followers of St Vitus. I couldn't wait to open the book.

The first tale reminded me strongly of E. A. Poe's Tell Tale Heart. It's a story of sadness, obsession and evolving madness that, in the end, finds the narrator strangely rewarded for his actions, rather than horrifically punished, like a Poe character usually is. I found the ending ironic, satisfying, and eerie, a fun read.

The next story, Ebola Zaire, was disturbing in its reality. Instead of documenting the course of the Ebola virus in clinical terms, the author has chosen to let us see this grim, frightening illness through the eyes of the people affected by it. This was a great choice, and it was well executed. A Case of Lycanthropy I found a bit humorous and ironic in its treatment of the old Werewolf story. 

The Burial was one of my favorites. It follows the experiences of a young naive American boy, and in a sad, frightening way, is a coming of age tale as well as an exploration of the myths and social mores of the people in his community.  I saw the courage and the sense of caring and responsibility to his people exhibited by the young man through his emotions, his actions and the choices that he made. I found him to be a very sympathetic character. The story was very well written.

Under the House started out strong, but the ending left me a bit cold. Although it showed the strength of the child protagonist, the author chose to end the story on a stark, unemotional note that I found unrealistic. Still, the situation the child found herself in and the fear the child experienced were palpable throughout, until that stark ending. I believe this may be a stylistic difference between myself and the author, since the ending endeavored to make a statement about the reality of the child's life, and left hope that the awful circumstances were about to change. I also was impressed by the author's choice to remind the reader that the mother shared some of the blame in the outcome.

Ghoul was my favorite story. The descriptions were vivid, the people were real, and the plot was rather fun. The author manages to add new wrinkles to old plots, always a plus. Monday Night Dive was creepy and the matter of fact ending worked very well. I didn't care too much for the matter of fact ending to Cold Spot, though. It seemed as if the potential for terror was left unmined. Crystal Ball I found over complicated and the conclusion too easy: it left little room for true mystery.

The title novella was sweet. Also complicated, it included strong characterization, good visualization of the settings and interesting characters. The plot twisted and turned, coming to a satisfying conclusion.

All in all, Ms. Rector serves up a highly readable collection in her third novel. I would recommend this as a quick, intelligent read. The author's prose is a bit too repetitive for true smoothness, but the visceral imagery, the strong, sympathetic characterization and the tight plotting make it a strong read. Ms. Rector knows how to build tension, asks interesting questions and clearly has a good feel for sending the kind of message she wishes to send with a story. Her themes are strong and her plotting does not falter.  A fun read. 

When I first opened the envelope sent to me by New Myths, I spotted the great cover art, chock full of wonderfully creepy pictures that reminded me of Jose Guadalupe Posada's Day of the Dead  "calaveras" drawings, or something out of an old "Tales of the Crypt" comic. Rendered in black and white, it danced like the followers of St Vitus. I couldn't wait to open the book.

The first tale reminded me strongly of E. A. Poe's Tell Tale Heart. It's a story of sadness, obsession and evolving madness that, in the end, finds the narrator strangely rewarded for his actions, rather than horrifically punished, like a Poe character usually is. I found the ending ironic, satisfying, and eerie, a fun read.

The next story, Ebola Zaire, was disturbing in its reality. Instead of documenting the course of the Ebola virus in clinical terms, the author has chosen to let us see this grim, frightening illness through the eyes of the people affected by it. This was a great choice, and it was well executed. A Case of Lycanthropy I found a bit humorous and ironic in its treatment of the old Werewolf story. 

The Burial was one of my favorites. It follows the experiences of a young naive American boy, and in a sad, frightening way, is a coming of age tale as well as an exploration of the myths and social mores of the people in his community.  I saw the courage and the sense of caring and responsibility to his people exhibited by the young man through his emotions, his actions and the choices that he made. I found him to be a very sympathetic character. The story was very well written.

Under the House started out strong, but the ending left me a bit cold. Although it showed the strength of the child protagonist, the author chose to end the story on a stark, unemotional note that I found unrealistic. Still, the situation the child found herself in and the fear the child experienced were palpable throughout, until that stark ending. I believe this may be a stylistic difference between myself and the author, since the ending endeavored to make a statement about the reality of the child's life, and left hope that the awful circumstances were about to change. I also was impressed by the author's choice to remind the reader that the mother shared some of the blame in the outcome.

Ghoul was my favorite story. The descriptions were vivid, the people were real, and the plot was rather fun. The author manages to add new wrinkles to old plots, always a plus. Monday Night Dive was creepy and the matter of fact ending worked very well. I didn't care too much for the matter of fact ending to Cold Spot, though. It seemed as if the potential for terror was left unmined. Crystal Ball I found over complicated and the conclusion too easy: it left little room for true mystery.

The title novella was sweet. Also complicated, it included strong characterization, good visualization of the settings and interesting characters. The plot twisted and turned, coming to a satisfying conclusion.

All in all, Ms. Rector serves up a highly readable collection in her third novel. I would recommend this as a quick, intelligent read. The author's prose is a bit too repetitive for true smoothness, but the visceral imagery, the strong, sympathetic characterization and the tight plotting make it a strong read. Ms. Rector knows how to build tension, asks interesting questions and clearly has a good feel for sending the kind of message she wishes to send with a story. Her themes are strong and her plotting does not falter.  A fun read. 

Available on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Open-Grave-Horror-Jeani-Rector/dp/1604417129
List Price:   $27.95

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