Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Lovers ofÂ 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 ofÂ 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 ofÂ indie small press, an invaluable niche whereÂ 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, theÂ excellentÂ Swan River Press) assemblesÂ 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 Â gets mysteriously missing.
In two instances Grantâ€™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 masterâ€™s unfinished stories , and beautifully portrays a man stalked and haunted by a wicked relative seeking revenge for an alleged injustice. In Alberic de MaulÃ©on Grant provides an excellent prequel to the famous â€œCanon Albericâ€™s Scrapbookâ€, writing Â with a light touch andÂ offering a very disturbing perspective.
The Calvary at BanskÃ 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 outstandingÂ 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 didnâ€™t care for)Â 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.