The Sea Change & Other Stories by Helen Grant. Book review

seaTHE SEA CHANGE & OTHER STORIES by Helen Grant, Swan River Press  Hardcover  £ 30.00

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Lovers of  classical , elegantly written, subtly disquieting supernatural and ghostly fiction have many reasons to rejoice when considering that the genre is effectively kept alive by a number of  modern masters, some firmly established, others comparatively new , such as Reggie Oliver, Peter Bell, RB Russell, to mention a few. The only trouble is readers have to go hunting that kind of fiction in the world of  indie small press, an invaluable niche where  those authors are born and keep thriving.

Helen Grant is a new member of that exclusive club of writers and her debut collection (obviously published by a small imprint, the  excellent  Swan River Press) assembles  seven of her delightful short stories , previously appeared in magazines and genre anthologies.

Grauer Hans is a dark fable presenting an accomplished German variation on the theme of the boogeyman, while Nathair Dhubh is a tense tale revolving around an unlucky mountain climbing during which a young man  gets mysteriously missing.

In two instances Grant’s work is a tribute to the classical ghost stories of MR James. The Game of Bear, winner of a specific competition among Jamesian enthusiasts, completes one of the master’s unfinished stories , and beautifully portrays a man stalked and haunted by a wicked relative seeking revenge for an alleged injustice. In Alberic de Mauléon Grant provides an excellent prequel to the famous “Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook”, writing  with a light touch and  offering a very disturbing perspective.

The Calvary at Banskà Bystrica, an intriguing, riveting piece set in Slovakia, features a man trying to trace a lost brother, whose inexplicable disappearance seems to be linked to a distant, long forgotten past.

The title story The Sea Change is an outstanding  story taking place in the world of sea divers where a man’s life is altered forever by the discovery of a wreck sitting in deep waters. The author exhibits the uncommon ability of spreading uneasiness in every page and imparts an ambiguous sepia-like quality to the story.

The Sea Change does display Grant at her best, but in each story in the book (with the exception of the semi-humorous Self Catering that I didn’t care for)  she exhibits a precise, sometimes detached narrative style, and a refined prose which enhance the strength of the eerie and unsettling atmospheres she manages to create.