Charles Black’s Mortbury Press has done fans of horror a real favour here, collecting Anna Taborska’s very diverse horror tales and adding two previously unpublished ones to the mix. Of the unpublished yarns, ‘Dirty Dybbuk’ tells the story of a wandering spirit from Jewish folklore. This one just happens to be a nymphomaniac who enters the body of young Jewish student, Mitzi. A witty story neatly rounded off when the young woman’s outraged parents turn to the local Rabbi and he hits upon a suitable resolution to the antics of the salacious spirit.
The tale of a man pursued by a coffin may sound bizarre and it is, yet in ‘The Coffin’, we are treated to a strange piece of surrealism with a nicely turned horrific dénouement.
‘Underbelly’ is a dark, doomy tale of revenge, with a twist. A woman with terminal cancer finds pain relief in a highly unusual way. But there’s a price to pay and the story’s ending is as bleak as anything you can imagine.
A beautifully crafted ghost story, ‘Girl in the Blue Coat’ is set initially in a Polish town during World War 2, when the Jewish population had been killed or sent to the death camps. This story weaves its spell beyond The Holocaust and into the present day.
‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ are two interconnected stories originally published separately. In this collection they author has placed them together and they complement one-another very well. ‘Rusalka’ tells of a sad young man searching to find the unnamed village in Poland from which his grandparents hailed before the Communist pogroms mad them flee the country. He meets up with Piotr in a village which is celebrating the Midsummer Solstice with a ritual in which the young men try to retrieve wreaths placed in the river by the village girls; a kiss, and maybe more, is their reward. During which our protagonist sees a ghostly vision of a woman on the far side of the river and he becomes possessed with her enigmatic beauty. Piotr’s mother warns about Rusalka, an evil spirit, but the warning is ignored. A dreamlike tale of obsession and death as our unnamed central character is lured into the shimmering water.
In ‘First Night’ Dan and Henry are in Poland, heading for Henry’s ancestral home, a manor house now in ruins once owned by his great-grandparents. Intertwined with this story is a narrative about a blacksmith and his marriage to his young bride. The lord of the manor arrives with his cronies at the wedding reception in order to exercise his right to have the first night with the bride. We discover how the distraught girl tries to commit suicide after having to sleep with the lord, and how she becomes a spirit, a water nymph. Like its companion piece, it has the qualities of a dream superimposed upon the mundane journey of the two men.
Anna Taborska’s tales are skilfully visualised and have that European vibe which gives them—like the yarns of Eddy C. Bertin—a distinctly weird, exotic flavour. And there are a further twelve stories to enjoy as well as eighteen fine pieces of black and white artwork by Reggie Oliver.