Strange Epiphanies by Peter Bell. Book review

STRANGE EPIPHANIES by Peter Bell, Published by Swan River Press 2012,Euro 30.00  Hardback viii + 192 pages

 Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

I’m warning you: anybody who has the opportunity to read a story or two by Peter Bell in some journal or anthology is bound to ask for more. That has been my fate, so much so that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the debut  collection by this new writer and have been sorely disappointed by two false starts when the book was announced and then cancelled first by Ex Occidente Press, then by Ash Tree Press.  At last , thanks to Brian J Showers’ far-sightedness and sensitivity as a publisher, here we have a beautifully produced volume assembling a handful of  reprints and a couple of brand new tales penned by Bell. The stories are fine examples of top notch dark fiction , written in an elegant  style, to be enjoyed in all its nuances.

The weaker tales are simply good, the best ones breathtaking and just extraordinary.

If ‘The Light of the World’ is a fascinating  medley of religion, travelling experiences , Italian landscapes and marvels of art within the frame of a rather inconsistent plot, ‘A Midsummer Rambling in the Carpathians’ is the intriguing report of the fictional discovery of a lost diary by Amelia B Edwards describing a trip in East Europe, full of disquieting allusions to the local vampire myth.

In the Aickmanesque ‘Resurrection’ a woman just recovered from a state of depression finds a new interest in life in a mountain village during the celebrations of its annual ceremonies, while in the hazy and enigmatic ‘M.E.F.’, set in the island of Iona, a man obsessed with the mysterious death of the former inhabitant of the place is haunted by her ghostly presence.

‘Inheritance’ is a superb, very dark tale of madness and evil involving a couple of hideous, malevolent dolls bringing misfortune to their young proprietress. Creepy in the extreme, the tale is a veritable masterpiece of horror fiction.

In the deeply unsettling, unforgettable  ‘Nostalgia, Death and Melancholy’ the dangers of going back to the places of childhood and of unearthing memories best left alone blend with the power of evil art.

Finally ‘An American Writer’s Cottage’ is an outstanding story, perfect in every way: uncanny atmospheres, admirable characterization, gripping and exquisite narrative style.

While I strongly recommend you to secure a copy of this splendid collection before it goes out of print, I’m pleased to inform you that a second collection of Peter Bell’s short fiction will be available very soon from Sarob Press. Take note.