Where You Live by Gary McMahon
Crystal Lake Publishing (November 2013)
266 pages, $12.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Where You Live is a varied collection of short stories by Gary McMahon. McMahon is an award winning author of both novels and short stories, and this collection gathers some of his best together. The bulk of this collection was originally published as a limited edition book from Gray Friar Press titled It Knows Where You Live, but the current collection expands that previous collection with newer stories and makes it available to a wider reading public. Overall, Where You Live is a really satisfying collection of horror pieces.
McMahon seems to be most comfortable in horror that is mood based. Instead of focusing on monsters or horror tropes, McMahon creates dark, haunting pieces that affect the reader emotionally. In “Just Another Horror Story,” McMahon creates a circular voyeuristic nightmare based on a man and woman in a hotel room and what they see through a camera set up in the next room. In “Sounds Weird,” an MP3 player plagues the speaker with its lack of music. In “Truth Hurts,” a man’s honesty literally wounds him as he attempts to develop a relationship. All of these stories are horrific, even if they don’t rely on classic horror tropes.
This doesn’t mean that McMahon doesn’t have his share of ghosts and monsters. There are plenty of those for readers who enjoy that sort of horror story as well. “Barcode” features a man haunted by his economic circumstances as well as a peculiar type of ghost. “The Grotto” features a boy whose Christmas anxieties and resentments manifest themselves into a particularly nasty creature. Even a story like “Down,” which features no clear monster to speak of, still has a horrible nastiness lurking in its dark shadows. McMahon provides fans of traditional horror stories with a fair share of nasty creatures and scary ghosts for their delight.
What makes McMahon’s fiction particularly appealing is its modern slant. Most of his stories are located in the gritty urban settings of English cities. Readers get a feel for the locale, and become immersed in this world. He further captures readers by creating unexpected stories. Instead of falling back on cliches, McMahon either aims for a haunting mood that produces fear and discomfort in the reader, or takes a classic trope (a monster in the dark or a ghost in the shadows) and reinvents it in a contemporary style. Readers will constantly be surprised and intrigued by the stories in Where You Live. It is an exciting collection of stories that fans of horror are sure to enjoy.