I Would Haunt You If I Could

Undertow. Apr. 2021. 254p. ISBN 9781988964263. pap. $17.99. HORROR
Birnie’s debut collection contains 14 stories, eight of which are original to this volume, and presents the author as a promising new voice in the genre. The fear in these stories is driven by character, not action, tending to focus on familial relationships. The intense sense of setting a visual stage is expertly informed by the author’s background in photography. However, the most striking thing about these tales is how mundanely the terror begins. This is horror with everyday beginnings, making the reading experience so much more enjoyably haunting and disorienting than readers will expect upon starting this volume. “Out of the Blue,” “Hand Me Down,” and “Other Houses” are stellar examples of how the author contemplates family situations that start off weird and unsettling and move into a terror readers will intimately feel before the story’s conclusion.
VERDICT Filled with thought-provoking, character-driven, psychologically horrific tales that veer slightly and satisfyingly into the weird, this collection is reminiscent of the deeply unsettling and disorienting worlds of Samanta Schweblin and Dan Chaon or the backlist gem Travelers Rest, by Keith Lee Morris.
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