Tag: suspense

Novelette: “The Thames Valley Catastrophe”

“The Thames Valley Catastrophe,” by Grant Allen

Appeared in The Strand, December 1897; featured in PseudoPod 664, September 13th, 2019

7,516 words

(Big implicit spoilers ahead, and this is a good story with enough suspense that you’ll want to go in cold.) Alasdair Stuart’s expressive PseudoPod reading (and his grim warning at the start) made me feel anything could happen, so that I actually paused halfway through out of a creeping fear for the main character’s wife and children. I felt like it was really happening.

Not what I think of when I think of horror, but truly horrific.


Short story: “Sacrificial Iron”

“Sacrificial Iron,” by Ted Kosmatka

Appeared in Asimov’s May/June 2019, published on April 19, 2019, and on their podcast (listen)

7,485 words, according to Rocket Stack Rank

I loved the suspense, the gradual unveiling of why this guy wanted to murder his companion, the reveal of who finally dunnit, and especially the great, cruel twist at the end. Some survive to pass on their genes and some don’t. The way the guy destroys the last bit of evidence is brilliant. I disliked the last few lines however—too unsubtle.

Rocket Stack Rank strongly criticizes the science here. To me the science was just the backdrop and the infodumps didn’t bother me a bit. The chemistry metaphor didn’t bother me either; I wouldn’t have found it heavy-handed if it hadn’t been hammered home so much.

Kosmatka reveals in an interview that he got “a decade of nothing but rejections” from Asimov’s. How amazing that writers keep going despite that kind of discouragement, and what a gift for readers.

Short story: “My Boy Builds Coffins”

“My Boy Builds Coffins,” by Gary McMahon

Appeared in Black Static, May–June 2015; featured in PseudoPod 664, September 6th, 2019

5,412 words

(You’ll want to enjoy the suspense in this one, so beware of spoilers below.) I found this wonderfully original and interesting, but the ending left me dissatisfied. Where is the real boy—in the coffin or in the house? The one in the house appears wrong, but so does the one in the coffin. I would have liked it better if the coffin boy seemed less ambiguously to be the real one. I like a sense of logic even in creepily ambiguous, open-ended horror.

I really liked the use of the boy’s past anger issues to keep the mother on edge and wondering, and that creepy wedding ring image.

I didn’t realize till I googled that the title was from a Florence and the Machine song. I like it less now that I know it’s an allusion. Still, it fits nicely.

PseudoPod now includes the text of the story in the podcast episode text, which makes it easy to follow along.

Short story: “The Glove Box”

“The Glove Box” or “Glove Box,” by Annie Neugebauer

Appeared in The Dark City Mystery Magazine at some point (read online here); nominated for a Stoker Award; read by Alex Ford in Tales to Terrify 389, July 12th, 2019

1,961 words (my guess was 2,000)

Cleverly wrings suspense out of what seems at first a slight incident. I like it. Not sure about the title though.

Short story: “Gephyrophobia”

“Gephyrophobia,” by Rykie Belles

Appeared here in Strange Horizons, June 10th, 2019, and on the podcast

1,544 words

(Spoilers.) (I don’t always warn for spoilers but this one is subtle.) Love the slow, tantalizing, delightfully incomplete reveal. I find the story satisfying despite its fragment-like quality and inconclusiveness.

What I just learned is a novel excerpt but I think is also a short story but I’m not sure: “Ross Perot and China”

“Ross Perot and China,” by Ben Lerner

To appear in the New Yorker May 27th, 2019, and read for The Writer’s Voice (both online here)

A few thousand words

I really like Adam’s panicky journey, and the suspense over Amber’s fate right up until he makes to leave the scene. And Amber’s rambling monologue too. I’m trying to piece together the themes. Amber’s contempt for her stepfather, her contempt for her boyfriend; Adam’s mistake regarding the house, his inability to connect with Amber, his pointless attempt to make her see what he sees behind his eyelids. Is Amber to blame for their failed relationship? Or is it that Adam is, like the stepfather, a bit of a blowhard, a bit of a phony, his efforts to communicate insincere? That’s certainly what the title suggests: Amber doesn’t care about Ross Perot and China because she understands that it’s just talk.

Ross Perot. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while.

Short story: “The Presentation on Egypt”

“The Presentation on Egypt,” by Camille Bordas

To appear in the New Yorker on May 20th, 2019; online here and read on The Writer’s Voice

Several thousand words

I find each of the three (I think three) points of view absorbing. I would expect to be in suspense about whether and how the daughter would learn the truth about her father’s death, but I felt no such suspense. What kept me listening so intently, then? Maybe seeing how her father’s biological/personal legacy played out in her? The mystery of what precipitated his suicide isn’t what kept me listening either—I think it’s exactly as it seems.

Short story: “For Somebody So Scared”

“For Somebody So Scared,” by Courtney Sender

Appeared in the Kenyon Review MAR/APR 2019,
Volume XLI Number 2; read on Kenyon Review Out Loud; scroll down to listen here

Several thousand words

Fascinating. My new favorite Kenyon Review story. The narrator tells us up front how it will end; the suspense comes from wondering how it will happen.

Short story: “Prayer for a Punch Line”

“Prayer for a Punch Line,” by Michael Guillebeau

Fiction on the Web, February 25th, 2019

3,986 words

Very enjoyable story. The priest/comedian’s dilemma is sympathetic and believable. Though I found the blackface bit at the end bizarre and hard to swallow.

Fiction on the Web seems to publish accessible, general-interest fiction that wouldn’t appear in the more highfalutin lit mags (or speculative and horror mags) that I’m accustomed to. I like it.

Short story: “There’s Someone at the Door”

“There’s Someone at the Door,” by Adam McOmber

Appeared here in The Collagist, Issue One Hundred and One, February 2019

1,533 words

I was fascinated by this all the way through, although I don’t quite get the ending. That last line could suggest menace. Perhaps Collagist stories are not meant to be understood.