Review: They Hide: Short Stories to Tell in the Dark by Francesca Maria

cover of They Hide by Francesca MariaThey Hide: Short Stories to Tell in the Dark by Francesca Maria
Brigid’s Gate Press (April 2023)
205 pages; $13.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Francesca Maria writes dark fiction surrounded by cats near the Pacific Ocean. She is the creator of the Black Cat Chronicles comic book series. Her most recent short story collection, They Hide: Short Stories to Tell in the Dark is now available. It is an impressive collection of dark short stories, perfect for any readers looking for quick and spooky stories. 

Maria’s short stories are great for readers looking for something fast to get through on a lunch break or bus ride. They are fast, well-paced, and still leave the reader with an ominous sense of dread. While Maria does not shy away from the gory and graphic, she also doesn’t revel in it, so the balance between body horror and psychological horror is maintained. Also, instead of sticking with one subgenre of horror, Maria’s book wanders the gamut, from historical horror in stories like “The Wysterfield Murders” to the folk horror of “Shane O’Reilly,” so readers are constantly surprised and engaged with unique and surprising tales. 

Elsewhere, Maria taps into horror focused less on myth and legend, and on reality itself. A story like “Zombies are Real,” which touches upon medical horror through the perspective of a motherless child, is all too real. There’s nothing magical or fantastic to be afraid of in this compact story, simply the horrors of real life and trauma. Stories like this show that Maria has not just breadth to her horror, but the skills to pull off softer emotional horror layered with empathy as well. 

Some readers might confuse this collection with a YA or even middle grade book. Indeed, some of the characters are young children or teens, and Maria uses their innocence to further the horror in her stories. However, this is not a YA collection, the graphic descriptions of gore and mutilation would probably be too much for that audience but will certainly thrill mature readers. 

Overall, this is a solid collection of quick and punchy short stories. Francesca Maria is able to pack a lot into her short fiction, and these stories are sure to entertain horror readers. While the book is geared more towards mature readers, trigger warnings are included, so any horror readers comfortable with those topics will surely enjoy this collection. 

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