Review: “Gray Shadows Under a Harvest Moon,” Roma Gray

Pros: The stories are somewhat interesting
Cons: ‘Stories’ that don’t stand alone; these aren’t spooky, nor are they ‘thrillers’
Rating: 2 out of 5

Gray Shadows Under a Harvest Moon, by Roma Gray, is labeled, “Six Trick-or-Treat Thrillers.” In the intro we’re told,

Each story is part of a novel, or a series of novels, currently under development.

You have to be really careful when you do this, seeing as this book isn’t free. The stories must stand alone, as whole stories, if you don’t want your reader to feel that they’ve paid you to advertise to them. Unfortunately, a couple of them don’t stand on their own. I’ll say a few things about each story, but I’ll try to keep it basic so I don’t spoil too much.

Feast on Fat Tuesday: This story involves a vampire named David who–well, I think he’s supposed to be afraid of a person who’s following him. But mostly it feels like he’s psyching himself into a panic attack, which isn’t inherently spooky. I guess the concept is interesting, but the story itself felt rushed, which didn’t help to build suspense.

And Then Everything Changed: Starting in the middle of a charged argument is iffy. I know it’s supposed to jolt us into the story, but instead it felt staged. The argument didn’t feel organic, and I couldn’t buy into some of the things people were feeling/saying. There are also conclusions that characters jump to regarding the people who lived in Atlantis (yep, it’s a we-discovered-Atlantis story) without taking the time to support them. They’re spinning off rapid fantasies rather than behaving like professionals. When something creepy does happen, we time-jump right away from it. And after that time-jump, we still have people miraculously jumping to conclusions with virtually no evidence.

Summer Vacation: Sean is staying with his grandmother, because his parents suck. The latest? He’s living across the continent from his parents, but his father absolutely insists that a fire in the house must have been set by Sean. The real problem is, Sean’s been studying black magic and cursing people. The story starts out explanation-heavy, then gets weird. At least I can understand kids/teens jumping to conclusions, unlike some of the characters in earlier stories. Also, this is the first of the ‘thrillers’ that actually gave me any real feeling of tension.

The Invisible Carrier: This one starts out with a sick little bat that’s released by humans (there’s a truly odd bit in which we get details from the bat’s perspective). Naturally this is about a nasty infection that makes its way into the human population–however, it spreads via a very unlikely group of individuals. This is a cute idea, but if there were enough of these carriers to spread things as far as the story indicates, then there’d be enough that people would be well aware of them. I can’t buy into the premise.

Unnatural Disasters: Shareez and her brothers are traveling to their parents’ home in the wake of a particularly bad hurricane. Unfortunately this one ends abruptly after things start to get creepy. This is one of those cases where it feels like the reader is being charged money to be advertised to.

Will the Real Monster Please Stand Up? Alistair Black is trying to find the mysterious tomb of the “Dark Pharaoh”. That’s when things get strange: cats attack people; bullets spray the scene. A young guy appears and thanks to him, lots of weird stuff happens. The Dark Pharaoh is more silly than creepy. It also turns out that the title of the tale wasn’t enough: the subject of ‘who’s the monster now?’ gets plenty of explicit coverage in the story too. Some subtlety would be nice, here. And again, the story cuts off abruptly in an attempt to sell the full story separately.

 

The stories feel like clever attempts at creepiness, but instead most of them over-explain and neglect subtlety in favor of hit-you-over-the-head exposition. That’s a tactic that rarely makes a good thriller. It doesn’t help that two of the stories are cut off abruptly enough to feel as though they’re advertisements that one has paid to read. (Before someone points it out–yes, I didn’t explicitly pay for it since it’s a review book, but it’s certainly how I would have felt if I had paid for it, and I think potential buyers deserve to know about the issue.)

 

NOTE: Book provided free for review by publisher

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