Sinister Stitches by Mark Cassell
Herbs House (October 2015)
128 pages; $6.99 paperback; $1.99 e-book
Reviewed by Josh Black
Mark Cassell’s The Shadow Fabric (2014) was a fast-paced and entertaining romp through a mythos involving the extraction of evil, a unique take on the living dead, and the encroachment of primordial darkness into the modern world. Sinister Stitches collects twelve stories (thirteen in the paperback version) that expand on or relate to the mythos, and an extract of the novel.
“On the Vine” might have you thinking twice before your next camping trip, as a pair of campers get much more from nature than they bargained for.
“The Artist and the Crone” sees the return of Leo from The Shadow Fabric as he’s settled into a new home following the events of the novel. His neighbor is an artist who’s painted some things that are all too familiar, and before long, all hell breaks loose in true Shadow Fabric fashion.
The experiments being undertaken in “Red, White and Black” will likewise be familiar to readers of the novel. In this story, the extraction of evil brings with it a particularly nasty side effect that spreads, swallows, and kills its victims.
Relationship anxieties are left to fester far too long in “Meeting Mum,” and a neglected woman changes in a far from typical way.
As sleep eludes him and disembodied voices implore him to “release the forgotten,” the protagonist in “Ten Minutes Till Deadtime” gives himself over to the inevitable release of the darkness buried on his property.
At 128 pages, Sinister Stitches is a quick read. With few exceptions, the stories are shorter than those in your average collection. Unfortunately this brevity leaves many of them little more than sketches rather than fully realized narratives. They’d have worked well enough if they were scattered throughout a book of longer stories, but in this case they’re the majority of the collection. Cassell’s writing shines in the longer stories, and those are the highlights here. The best of them, hearkening back to the style of The Shadow Fabric, offer propulsive thrills, chills, and mystery. This one’s most likely to go over well with readers who are already fans of the mythos.