Review: Madame Cruller’s Couch by Elizabeth Massie

cover of Madame Cruller's CouchMadame Cruller’s Couch and Other Dark and Bizarre Tales by Elizabeth Massie
Crossroad Press (August 2021)
290 pages; hardcover $31.99; paperback $18.99; e-book $4.99
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Elizabeth Massie is an American literary treasure. Yes, she’s won the Bram Stoker Award twice but she’s far more than a horror icon. Ameri-Scares, her middle-grade series that tackles dark legends in every state, was optioned by Warner Horizon. Then there’s the mysteries, psychological suspense, historical fiction, and simply great weird stories.
In this new collection, readers will be treated to a wide swath of masterful stories, from the horrific to the oddly weird and everything in between.

Modern collections can often be a mixed bag, often held up by one or two interesting stories. Between these covers, readers will find no filler. Every tale holds something for the fan who relishes fun in the shadows, the dances in the dark, and forays into the fantastic.
If you could fathom a cross between Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson with a touch of Flannery O’Connor crossing genres with Rod Serling, you just might have an idea what you’re in for in this great book.
The titular tale delves into the haunted couch of Madam “Cruller” along with a pair of characters that Joe R. Lansdale would be proud to call his own and is perfect introduction into the bizarre mix that Massie has whipped up for her readers.
“Fixtures of Matchstick Men and Joo” shook this reviewer as it wavers between genres in a Twilight Zone manner but drifting off into fresh territory as a Vietnam vet takes a wayward woman into a utopian compound in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. What ensues is both mesmerizing and twisty, as readers might just hear some psychedelic strains of sixties’ tunes as trips of a different kind consume the travelers.
Sure to become a favorite of those looking for a wild and fun read, “Just Two Good Old Boys” suggests exactly what’s in the title. If you can’t discern what show this might be, go ask Bo, Luke, or Uncle Jessie. Steer Clear of Cooter. Nobody in their right might would trust him just as the pair of hopeful drivers seek to win a race that might prove to be more than a “Hazzard.”
Three other favorites that truly stand out as classic Massie are “Christmas At The Pattersons’,” “Willy Wonka and L. Walker Biofair,” and “Scarves,” each luring in the reader into both a strange, yet somewhat familiar world.
Yet there’s something entirely different in Madam Cruller’s world here, something that might just need to garner another piece of hardware for Beth Massie. “Eating Cancer,” the novella that closes out the collection might just be the best work the author has penned in decades. Written before the world fell apart (pre-COVID), this story is beyond frightening in its timeliness. The less said, the better about this but a drink might be necessary afterwards. It’s that good, and chilling.
If there’s one batch of stories that’s worthy of all the praise it should have from a variety of genres, it’s Madame Cruller’s Couch. You just might be shocked at what you find under the cushions.
Highly recommended.

Leave a Reply