Review: “Twisted: Tainted Tales,” Janine Pipe

Rating: 4 out of 5

Janine Pipe’s horror collection Twisted: Tainted Tales has an interesting conceit to it. A woman found a bunch of papers at an author’s estate, each story linked to a song on a mix tape. Each story is named after its matching song, and is introduced by the woman who found the papers.

There’s a monster-in-the-woods story, a desperate woman who takes shelter in a man’s home, a hunter who may be more terrible than his monstrous prey, detectives trying to figure out the cause of a bunch of exsanguinated corpses, childhood imaginary friends, and a woman who stalks a man she saw on a bus. There’s a drive-in open in the midst of a rash of missing kids, and a boy whose friend vanishes one day (this latter one had too much bald-faced explaining at the end, but was still quite good).

There’s a weird story that feels kind of out of place, about a world in which the poor have overthrown the rich and the rich are made to participate in some sort of blood-sport. The ending was written such that it seemed like the reader should be having some sort of revelation, but damned if I could figure out what it was. Also, this story seemed to uniformly picture the wealthy as decent people while the poor folk are the bloodthirsty bad guys.

There’s a story in which a young woman wants to attempt to see a reputed Halloween haunting, and her boyfriend seems interested in helping with that. There’s an odd story in which a bunch of kids are storing sexy photos in a tree. There’s a great little haunting story about a decrepit building that used to be a school for boys, and a tale about two kids and their father who are going camping sometime after the boys’ mother was murdered.

One of my favorites was a story about the reputed haunted house in a town, and two boys finally giving in to their curiosity and going inside. Another good one introduced a teenaged boy who has had night terrors for his entire life. And finally, a story about a drain pipe with something terrible hiding inside. (There are a lot of stories with teen boys as the main characters!)

The stories are intriguing and inventive, with plenty of death and horror afoot. I recommend this collection to my fellow horror fans.

Content note: menstrual blood, body parts, mutilation, sex, gore, vomit, psycho-stalker, off-screen child death, attempted date rape, slurs, off-screen animal death.

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