Review: “The Corpse Garden,” S.H. Cooper

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

This is the second anthology I’ve read by S.H. Cooper, and it’s just as excellent as the other. The Corpse Garden: A Collection Of Short Horror Stories includes 14 tales of murder, mayhem, and a lot of bad luck.

There’s a kid who grows up seeing the worst possible outcome for any event. He buries his reactions as his parents get fed up with him. He ends up having to be subtle in how he protects his younger sister, but the story doesn’t say during this period what happens when he can’t warn people of things, and that needed to be added in order to make the rest of the story read right. (Note that this is my only negative in the whole book.)

There are bullied kids who find unusual protectors. There’s a 12-year-old girl diagnosed with schizophrenia who is terribly afraid of what the shadows are telling her to do. There’s a teen who, during a game of truth or dare, recites the taboo phrase three times that’s supposed to summon the local supernatural legend.

There’s Poe the crow who brings unusual gifts to a woman who just moved into a new house. There’s a guy who works in phone sales who keeps getting bizarre calls from “Rosie”–at first it seems harmless, but things escalate.

In that other Cooper anthology, there’s a short story about a key that can open any door. It shows you “what’s really inside,” and can let what’s inside out. This key returns in this volume, picked up by a man who thinks everyone else is happier than he is.

A woman buries her fiancé on what should have been their wedding day, and a man inherited an inn with very specific rules about when to stay out of the nearby marshes.

There’s more, but some stories are harder than others to encapsulate in a sentence or two. There are tragedies, traumas, and triumphs. All of the stories hit me on an emotional level, and I look forward to reading more by Cooper. Content note for slurs, animal harm and death, child death, and attempted rape. Nothing is very explicit or gory; it’s mostly off of the page.

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