Review: “Unfinished Business,” Catherine Lundoff

Pros: Old-fashioned ghost stories plus a few fun flash fictions
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

There are some suitably old-fashioned paranormal stories in Catherine Lundoff’s anthology Unfinished Business: Tales of the Dark Fantastic, as well as some highly creative and unusual short stories. The old fashioned tales wend and wind, with narrators spilling everything primarily in first or even second person. Some of the stories tell different versions (or a different side of) tales we’re already familiar with. There’s The Mask and the Amontillado, for example, with a fascinating main character who is a man who was born as a woman–and who has kept this secret so far. In Miss Lucy’s Glass, a portion of the tale of Dracula is told, from the point of view of Miss Lucy’s maid, Shaw, who is in love with her mistress. There’s also Bluebeard’s Wife, which is told from Jack the Ripper’s point of view, and is very satisfying to read.

There’s one story that depicts a devastatingly powerful ghost (Duchess), and a beautifully horrifying tale about a woman trying to contact the ghost of her lover in a slightly steampunk version of reality (Medium Mechanique). A Splash of Crimson left me a little confused as to what happened, but it’s still an intriguing haunting tale.

Cherubim is a tidy little tale of cosmic horror, while Preserves is kinda-sorta science fiction, in that the main character is aware that ash blankets the sky and generation ships are being created to save mankind. However, all may not be as it seems…

Home Staging, with Phantasm is just a fun little tale about someone who flips haunted houses. Firebird is a dash of flash fiction that hints at so much in such little space (for instance, the phrase “last ballet company on Earth” is pretty much the only way in which it’s indicated that there’s an apocalypse going on). The Temporary is intriguing–a temp starts to fade and vanish at her desk as she works.

I really enjoyed these stories. One tale is a bit on the humorous side, while most of the rest are more dark and serious. All of them are intriguing, with a skilled, enjoyably garrulous narrative and engaging characters.

Content note for domestic abuse and a little muted gore. Also, happily, several same-sex relationships.

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