Review: “Midnight in the Pentagram,” ed. Kenneth W. Cain

Rating: 4 out of 5

As a note, I end up giving most multiple-author anthologies a 4/5 largely as a result of the fact that most people’s personal tastes won’t wholly match up with those of the editor, but the stories have usually gone through an editor who has motivation for finding the good stuff. It balances out a bit. Midnight in the Pentagram, edited by Kenneth W. Cain, fits that pattern.

I have a handful of favorites in here. Brian Moreland’s “The Corn Maidens” involves a young woman with a disturbing power, and a village with equally disturbing traditions. I absolutely love how this one played out.

Top billing (in my mind) should go to Laurel Hightower’s “The Other.” It’s a fascinating look at a possessed man’s life. He’s losing time, his wife suddenly seems to hate him, and his things get moved around. This is an incredibly powerful story.

“Angel Dust,” by Shannon Felton, is a bizarre story of drugs, possession, and demons that’s oddly intriguing. James Newman’s “I Know He Loves Me (He Just Has a Funny Way of Showing It)” is another possession story that takes things in an unexpected and fascinating direction. There seems to be a bounty of excellent possession stories, like P.D. Cacek’s “Diminishing Returns,” in which a woman with Alzheimer’s seems to be possessed.

Todd Keisling’s “The Gods of Our Fathers,” set in the same universe as his “Devil’s Creek,” is absolutely beautiful, and very dark. A girl whose father turned away from the Old Gods to the Christian god tries to find a way out of her life of pain and terror.

“A Night Above,” by John Quick, is a hilarious (and oddly touching!) story of a demon summoned to a slumber party, and I loved it!

Charlotte Platt’s “Family Business” introduces us to Lisa, who has followed in her family’s business of restoring and repairing antiques. A mysterious visitor named Levi brings her an artifact to be repaired, and things get strange from there. Action, horror, and a nice shiver down your spine!

Many other stories are quite good–there are plenty of possessions, summonings, and other intriguing stories to read.

Things that made some of the other stories not as good for me included one in which an aging aunt is completely and utterly stereotypical, right down to magically taking a pie out of the oven just as her unexpected visitors arrive (there are a couple of other stories with very stereotypical characters, but not many). Some stories feel like they end just a tad bit too soon, not quite taking us to an adequate resolution. One story has an odd clumsy rhythm; I think it’s because typically high-stress parts of a story have at least some shorter sentences to help convey that choppy feeling, and this story just kept the same “normal” pace throughout (it takes away from the tension and drama). A few stories seem to hurry their way through, and could have used a bit more detail.

Content note for: self-harm, racial slurs, child molestation and abuse, animal harm, rape, abuse and murder of slaves, death of a baby, highly detailed torture, xenophobia, and of course, since this book contains a wide range of horror stories, gore. I definitely recommend reading this one. Many stories are just wonderful, and most of the rest are very good. The theme is covered very well, and all of the stories feel as though they fit.

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