Till the Score is Paid by Gemma Amor

cover of Till the Score is Paid by Gemma AmorTill the Score is Paid by Gemma Amor
Giles Press (December 2019)

254 pages; $12.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Some authors have a storytelling voice that feels familiar to the reader. I often say that these authors’ books are like coming home after wearing formal clothes all day, and then putting on your favorite pajamas; the definition of comfort.

Gemma Amor’s writing style “fits me.” We are a perfect reader/author match. The minute I start reading one of her short stories I am immediately drawn in and compelled to finish. It’s difficult for me to put any story of her’s down until I’m done.

Her first collection, Cruel Works of Nature, blew my mind. Each story so remarkably unique; the author’s very own illustrations introducing the next tale with the title. When I discovered she was releasing another short story collection, I was beside myself with excitement but also experiencing some hesitancy — what if it doesn’t measure up to the standard set by that first book? What if she decides not to include those illustrations! Perish the thought.

I’m thrilled to report that Till the Score is Paid is a worthy follow up to that high bar Gemma Amor set and, dare I say, she might have even outdone herself. I’m pleased Gemma stuck with her illustrations for this collection, I believe that when an author ventures forth with something unique like that, and it goes over so well with readers, it’s safe to assume they would miss it if it wasn’t there the second time around. We readers are a spoiled lot and we want what we love from our favorites. I loved the beautiful title pages as well, an additional treat.

All of the visual components aside, what about the stories? I must highlight some of my favorites:

“Justine” —  Perhaps the standout story for its provocative subject material. A woman finds that she can use an unconventional method to make sure her victimizer pays for what he did to her. Obviously, triggersome (did I just make up a word?) but well worth the cringes and flinches to see Justine get her chance in hell.

“Rat Girl” — Timmy’s new friend is hiding something in his basement. The illustration for this one was so good, I just kept turning back to it while I read the story. 

Here’s where I mention that Gemma often submits her short stories to be acted out old-school-radio-style on The No Sleep Podcast, including two of my favorites included in this collection:

“Heart of Stone” — A father would do anything for his daughter, Jenny. He only gets to see her every other weekend, so his time with her is precious. He gives her a special gift for her birthday which is the catalyst for some supernatural events. This one was unexpected and I loved the reading on No Sleep!

“A Birthday Cake for Brian” — Brian’s mother decides to make a special cake for her son on his birthday as a surprise. But it’s Brian who has a nasty surprise for his mother. I loved the way this one reads like a Creepshow episode — it’s brutal, short and sweet. Like the icing on the cake.

Do yourself a favor and grab both of Gemma Amor’s collections. She’s making big waves in the horror industry, nominated for a Bram Stoker and you don’t want to miss out on the conversation or her brilliant stories.

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