Body horror, spiritual encounters, and ideas of alternate dimensions fill the pages of Six!, a collection of six short stories by Mark Cassell. It is a quick read, though some of the stories go on for much longer than necessary. There is no real theme to the collection. They range from character-driven suspense tales to action-driven cat-and-mouse chases.
Among the stronger pieces in the collection are “Skin,” about a woman who finally investigates what her neglectful husband has been working on in his basement lab, “In Loving Memory,” about a man who is visited by the ghost of his best friend who was struck by lightning as a kid, and ”Don’t Swear in Mum’s House,” about two siblings who reluctantly reunite with their imaginary friend while cleaning out their parents’ house. These are the most straightforward stories and contain the most heart.
The stories are ultimately more creepy than scary. However, they also don’t rely on over-the-top gore or disturbing imagery in order to tell their tales. Cassell really focuses on his characters’ relationships with each other, both the heroes and villains. Their terrorizers are not monsters on the bed or an unintentionally unleashed entity. Instead, they are characters with a history, those who have done wrong or have been wronged, and, whether intentionally or not, return to share their misery.
Review by Laura Smith