Eric Guignard has fast become one of the most reliable “new” writers in horror and other speculative genres in recent years. His Doorway to the Deadeye and a ultra-cool anthology Pop the Clutch cemented his reputation, not to mention his more academic studies of authors plus the 5 Senses of Horror study/anthology.
Last Case at Baggage Junction is a weird bird but a fine read that demands to be read carefully, although it can easily be devoured in one sitting. Part noir, part horror, it burrows deep into the reader’s psyche as it weaves a deceptive tale that lingers long after the final page.
Charlie Stewart is a bit of a journeyman without a solid career. He’s hanging on by a thread, and his girlfriend is ready to bolt. Set perfectly in 1960s era Detroit, Charlie spends the bulk of his time with his pastime: bidding on lost suitcases left at hotels around the city.
Apparently it’s a popular hobby, where roomfuls of men bid on the bags left behind by travelers, hoping that within that luggage exists a hidden fortune. He and his buddy Joey Third make this a habit and scrape by on their findings.
One day they bid on a piece of old leather and win the baggage for a mere dollar. Once home, they scavenge through the winnings, finding an old gramophone and boxes full of wax records without labels. When they play the records, something odd begins to happen, transforming reality around them, first in minute details, then in something a bit more sinister.
What is the word “Vkhodite” and why is it heard amongst the strange chanting?
It means “come in.”
Charlie’s world begins to unravel as he scrambles to decipher the origin of the records and the player while others gravitate to the music. Guignard’s tale could be described as having a bit of Lovecraftian strands within, yet it resembles the best of Charles Grant and darker vintage noir, almost leaning into Clive Barker territory. It’s tough to detail without giving away some key secrets, yet the experience is worth the mystery.
Highly recommended short read. One of the best entries of 2020 and thankfully, a horror that isn’t real.