Paula Guran Reviews Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson and The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pio­neered Horror and Speculative Fiction, Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson (Quirk 978-1-68369-138-9, $19.99 352pp, hc) September 2019.

Monster, She Wrote is a brief, breezy, yet fairly complete overview of women who pioneered hor­ror and related fiction. It’s a fun read, chock-full of authors genre-lovers should know if they don’t already. Forty authors – from Margaret Caven­dish (“the Kardashian of her day,” according to Kröger & Anderson) to the likes of Kathe Koja, Sarah Waters, and Helen Oyeyemi – are sorted into suitable sections (“The Founding Mothers,” “Haunting the Home,” etc.) and each receive a brief essay. Appropriate reading lists that include related work (where many other authors are noted) are also supplied. There are informative tangents into definitions, anecdotes, and quotes. A final section, “The Future of Horror and Speculative Fiction,” attempts an impossible chore – cover­ing current authors – as well as one could expect. For what it is, Monster, She Wrote is wonderful. Highly readable, relatable, and edifying, librarians and horror readers will find it useful and entertain­ing. It provides a popular baseline compendium of needed knowledge. There is, according to the advance reading copy, a selected bibliography this reviewer did not see. One does not need footnotes, but having some idea where one can go for not only more on the subjects, but some validation of the authors’ assertations, is essential.

The Twisted Ones, T. Kingfisher (Saga 978-1-5344-2957-4 $24.99, 400pp, hc) October 2019.

It is hard not to empathize with a female protago­nist who is a freelance editor, but T. Kingfisher (nom de plume of Ursula Vernon) offers a great deal more with The Twisted Ones than this reviewer’s personal identification. Tasked with cleaning out her recently deceased grandmother’s home in North Carolina, Melissa (nicknamed “Mouse”) – accompanied by her dog Bongo – travels there and starts to toil. Granny was a hoarder and Melissa’s work is cut out for her. One room, however, remains strangely uncluttered. There, she discovers a journal penned by Fred­erick Cotgrave, her step-grandfather. Cotgrave’s writings seem to be pretty crazy – until strange creatures start showing up and an excursion into the forest leads to weird rocks. Are the creatures the “Twisted Ones” referred to in the journal? Neighbor Foxy, an older Chemawa woman, calls them “holler people.” A horrid deer effigy ap­pears hung in the trees, then disappears. Mouse is a smart, modern woman (and a witty, sensible narrator) and she’s ready to split. Then her dog vanishes. Even smart, modern women cannot desert beloved pets. Friendly natives who are far from the hillbilly stereotype – mostly artists – help Mouse and the plot along. Kingfisher offers superb characters in Mouse and Foxy and pulls off an atmospheric, isolated-in-the-creepy woods novel with up-to-date panache and plenty of heart-stopping page-turning chills.

Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron, Ohio, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.

This review and more like it in the November 2019 issue of Locus.

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