Review: “From Twisted Roots,” S.H. Cooper

Pros: Absolutely excellent short horror stories!
Rating: 5 out of 5

S.H. Cooper brings us From Twisted Roots: Thriller, Horror, and Mystery Short Stories. I absolutely love this collection. Each story packs a punch, even though they’re all a little different. Some end in tragedy. Others in victory. There’s revenge served cold, and even heartwarming endings. All of them have that emotional impact, and a thread of fear runs through them.

There’s a woman who still has two teddy bears her grandfathers gave her. Each one has a recording of the man saying “I love you, Sadie,” whenever it’s squeezed. But one night, the script changes. There’s a woman whose family has a tendency to get “messages from the universe” when someone dies, and she just got a message that seems to be from her daughter. So she races home to find out what’s going on. (I had my hand over my mouth with my eyes wide on this one.)

There’s a free carnival for children, and a bullied girl who calls her bully just before she does something terrible. A little girl disappears, and her family gets a tape of her talking to them once a year. A young boy feeds a monster that lives under the house, named Smidge. There’s a mean neighbor in one tale who refuses to allow any child near his property. One family’s grandmother always has a reason why her family shouldn’t visit her at her home, until she has no choice but to take her granddaughter for a night.

Hazel has to visit her beloved Grandpa on his farm for a little while, but something strange starts to happen to the animals in their pens. Another little girl tells her family they’re no longer allowed to kill spiders because the queen spider is protecting her. One teenager learns a valuable lesson from her father’s D&D games, while another takes advantage of her single father’s desire to give her everything she wants. A stuffed animal meant to protect a little girl takes on a new role. A little old lady has a bit of magic of her own when two people want to make her leave her home.

There’s a grandmother who warns her grandchildren to stay away from “the little people,” and another who makes “annoyance curses” at her grandchild’s bullies–ones that come true. Another little girl remembers her “past lifes” and tries to warn her mother about events that repeat themselves.

There are plenty of surprises, but even when I can guess what’s coming the stories are so engrossing that it just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t in any way take away from the suspense. There are a ton of stories in here, and they’ll definitely get you through some of the current craziness in the world–this is some quality escapism here. The characterization is excellent, the quickly-sketched-out worldbuilding is engrossing, and the variety of material is wonderful. Most stories have an element of the paranormal to them, but not all. (And in some you can’t be sure.)

Content note for suicide, rape (not shown on the page), torture, child death, child abuse, animal death, and human trafficking. All of these things are handled bluntly and with a minimum of gory detail. Most of them happen off of the page.

Sometimes, though, you just have to smash a psychopath in the face with a door half a dozen times.

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