Death is permanent. This is the falsehood that we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night. It’s the lie that we tell our children so they don’t carry their little kitten’s corpse to the old cemetery deep in the forest, in the grove where nothing living grows. It’s the myth that we wrap ourselves in so we can ignore the gut-wrenching terror of what really follows death—the unfathomable unknown.
The truth is that some things don’t stay dead.
The child at the end of the dock that drowned years before. That woman who your husband was having an affair with—the woman who disappeared shortly after your husband stopped dating her. The prettiest girl in school, gift-wrapped for you in an old, forest cabin. The vampire that hovers around her old grave. Two Russian rock stars with a taste for human flesh and blood. These are The Misbehaving Dead, and they just won’t stay where we buried them.
Edited by: Jack Burgos
Publisher: A Murder of Storytellers
Release Date: 21/10/2017
My Chosen Format: Kindle
My Rating of ‘The Misbehaving Dead’: 4 out of 5
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
When it comes to short story anthologies, I tend to just give a generic review on what I thought of the collection as a whole. But, ever since I came across Mel’s little method of individually reviewing/grading each story I decided to go down that route. Way better for anyone reading a review to see how many good or bad eggs are in a collection Please note that the stories may not be reviewed in the order they appeared in the collection:
Encephaloshrooms – 3 Stars
The general concept is a good one; woman hunting zombies for their brains to make a drug out of it. I liked the whole ‘hunters becoming the hunted’ spin on the whole zombie mythos. One thing that seriously put me off was the overuse of the word ‘zombie’. It was used pretty much once per line. There are multiple different words to use in place of zombie. A shame the author/editor didn’t make a change here or there. Really killed the flow and enjoyment for me as it felt too samey.
The Edge of the Dock – 2 Stars
This one really confused me. I couldn’t figure out what was going on which, obviously was a drawback for my own personal enjoyment. The piece did have some nice writing and some great imagery, however.
Sisters of Midnight – 2 Stars
The basic premise is that three sisters have the power between them to give life to the dead. One removes decay, one removes pain/illness and the other gives life. If life is given without decay and pain/illness being removed, bad things happen. I liked the idea but was seriously underwhelmed by the execution. I thought the characters were too dumb to be in the slightest bit believable. Had serious promise but just needed a bit more TLC to make it a great piece.
Wisteria – 5 Stars
This one really should have been the first story in the anthology. It’s incredibly well-written and just overall is a great piece. It tells the tale of a dysfunctional couple and the deadly secrets linked to the wisteria growing from beneath their home. Just felt like a wonderful read with really well fleshed out characters. Certainly boosted my hopes after the first few tales.
She Comes Calling – 5 Stars
This one is only a couple of pages long and tells the sad, lonely tale of a dead child that tries to find her way home once a year on Halloween. Really well told in so short a word count.
The Stray Bones Trap – 3 Stars
This story revolves around the conscious remains of a young woman buried in her murderer’s yard. I liked the vast majority of this piece but a few bits left me scratching my head. A couple of things just didn’t add up for me.
The Glorious Dead – 2 Stars
The Glorious Dead tells of a zombie outbreak (with a bit of voodoo thrown in for good measure) in a Union Army camp during the American Civil War. Once again the word ‘zombie’ is painfully overused. This piece had great potential but, as with a couple of pieces so far, the execution was lacking. The ending was also incredibly corny.
Temporary – 3 Stars
This one was really hard for me to score. It revolves around a publishing house that hires cryogenically frozen/zombie temps. The writing was really strong, but I just couldn’t bring myself to like or care about the main character.
Mercy Brown and Me – 4 Stars
This is the depressing tale of a young girl who, ostracised by her friends at school, makes friends with the ghost of a girl a hundred years dead. She feels a kinship to the unloved spirit and would do most anything to be with her. It was very well-written, but just a little too depressive for my usual tastes. Still, I felt it too good to score any lower than a four.
The Red Lady – 1 Star
I simply could not finish this origin tale of a spectral lady in red. It’s literally the first time I have ever DNF’d a short story. The writing was of a far lesser quality than anything else in the collection and the editing, if it had been edited at all, was severely lacking. There seemed no flow, pace or emotion to the piece.
Girls from Jumbo – 4 Stars
A disturbed teen, with a hatred for his father, takes to stealing his mother’s meds as a way to escape his daily life. That … and the relationship he forms with the corpse of a missing girl. Really well-written and well told. The only thing that let it down was the ending as nothing seemed to happen. Left me a bit confused.
The Naked Woman – 4 Stars
A named woman, visible only to children, walks by a school yard every day. This is a tale about a group of kids who obsess over their ‘ghost’. The story was well told and had me constantly curious. The end, however, left me deflated. What was the aftermath? A certain thing happens to a certain character and nobody seems to notice or care. Just felt odd.
Dead Men Don’t Count – 5 Stars
Two men steal the belongings of a zombie. The dead man’s behaviour prompts one of the men to wonder if the walking dead can still feel/experience emotions. Are they completely far gone and beyond reach? I’m not used to the writing style, but everything about it was simply beautiful.
Cloves and Orchids – 5 Stars
A young girl comes to terms with the death of her sister, the mysteries surrounding her death and why her spirit seems to be lingering on … This is a fantastic short story. It’s well-told, has some unexpected bits and makes you feel for the characters. Ticks all the boxes.
Death is But a Text Away – 4 Stars
Ghost is an assassin with links to the supernatural world. Her talents are called upon to sort out the problems being caused by a poltergeist. This was written in a way that was really addictive to read. I always find that to be the case with third person perspective. I just thought a few of the characters she met/interacted with were felt a little flat or were lacking something in order to earn the piece the full five stars.
The World Doesn’t End, Even When It Should – 3 Stars
In this piece, zombies are not a thing to be feared. They do not eat brains. The cure illnesses. It’s apparently quite a shady business. One woman tries to convince her father to use one in order to cure himself of terminal cancer. It was well-written for the most part but I just felt it ended too abruptly and that there wasn’t really a pay-off for the reader.
Stay Down, Rusty – 3 Stars
A single mother begins seeing the apparition of her son’s dead dog. The spirit is trying to make her suffer for her wrongs. It’s a good piece, but it’s just far too predictable for it to be great. Stay away from this piece if animal cruelty in books is not for you.
Olympic Drive – 2 Stars
This one tells the story of two lesbian lovers on their school swim team and a romantic night spent together in a haunted cavern. To be fair, it felt more like a lusty erotica for the most part than anything horrory. The ghostly bits were too in your face to ever be classed as un-nerving. The ending was good, though!
You Must Not Be Yourself – 5 Stars
A book club that opens throughout the night on Sundays hosts a weekly themed sex club where all participants must dress as a character from literature. The only rule is that you must not come as yourself. This was incredibly fun and I loved every minute of it. Rivals Wisteria for best piece in the collection.
Waking Up – 2 Stars
For a young boy, an old tape player seems capable of raising the dead. This tells the tale of said tape-recorder and it’s past. I didn’t really enjoy this one. It seemed too over the top and didn’t really feel like it had any atmosphere to it at all.
Until There’s Nothing Left – 3 Stars
A girl has the power to bring people back from the dead. The only downside is that they seem to come back wrong. I could see what the author was going for, but the piece just felt like a series of flashbacks. Not really my thing.
We Are Golden – 2 Stars
This follows two undead punk rockers as they try to maintain their unlife by feeding on their groupies. Nothing really jumped out at me as exciting or engaging. Not really the story I would have chosen to end things on.
In total, ‘The Misbehaving Dead’ scored 72 out of 110 giving it a 4 star rating. There were some of the best short stories I have ever read in this anthology. Sadly, what held it back, was that there were also a couple of the least enjoyable I have come across.