Rating: 4 out of 5
Ronald Kelly’s The Halloween Store and Other Tales of All Hallows’ Eve is a collection of seven stories (plus an essay). As you might guess from the title, they all have to do with Halloween in one way or another.
My favorite story in here is “The Halloween Store,” the first entry in this book. It’s another variation on the curiosity shop trope, but it has several developments that make it much more than that. I admit the other trope in here (three boys plus one girl who is a tomboy) is getting a little shopworn, but it isn’t a big deal.
“Mister Mack is Back in Town” is a very odd tale that has less to do with Halloween. Kyle’s daughter Rebecca and her friend Hannah have gone missing, and this is something that’s happened before in the town’s history. This one has a very different feel from the rest of the book, as much sci-fi as horror.
“Blood Suede Shoes” is kind of well-worn modern folklore, but what it lacks is what makes it better–I’d expect this sort of story to have sexual violence in it, and it doesn’t.
“Clown Treats” follows several teens as they trick-or-treat, and they get some very unexpected treats from a drunk clown. (You can see the genesis of this story if you read the author’s essay at the end.)
In “The Cistern,” Jud Simmons decides to pay a visit to his old hometown. He ends up offering to take a kid, Calvin, to the festival, and has a wonderful day riding the rides and chowing down on fair food. But this is a horror collection, so you know it can’t be that simple.
“Pretty Little Lanterns” sees Sheriff Jonah Townshend trying to catch a serial killer who likes to strike around Halloween and leave the skulls of his victims lit with candles (much like a jack-o-lantern). Nosy, gossipy Miss Gladys, the town librarian, thinks she’s figured out who the culprit is, but the Sheriff has little reason to believe her.
“The Amazing and Totally Awesome Fright Creature” pulls on those old advertisements you used to find in comic books, advertising things you could send away for. Aaron and his friend Ricky send away for the “Amazing and Totally Awesome Fright Creature!” When a tiny little salamander arrives, they think they’ve been had. Yeah, not so much! The end of this one actually left me laughing (in a good way).
This isn’t a stunning anthology, but if you’re looking for a bit of Halloween horror fun, it’s worth it!
Content note: a light hand with the gore and one single instance of animal death are really all you have to worry about.