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The Death Artist Paperback – February 1, 2002
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Pre-order today
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As in his earlier collection The Dark Country, Etchison weaves his tales with the barest hint of a common thread, more an allegation than an actuality, and weaves them into dark cloth indeed. There is blood indeed, gore and more, and darker, more refined tortures are woven into that fabric.
And THEN he starts painting the pictures.
I was wrong. Somehow, I'd missed the majority of the stories in THE DEATH ARTIST, and catching up with Etchison in this collection makes me realize that the best has only gotten better.
Mind you, these tales are not for those seeking more traditional terrors and tropes. Etchison has moved away from the overtly speculative horrors of his early work, and THE DEATH ARTIST's most effective stories eschew the supernatural altogether and are all the more frightening for their absolute plausibility. Take, for example, the chilling vignette "Call Home," in which a well-intentioned Good Samaritan has his life ruined by the very person he is trying to save. Or "The Last Reel," a heartbreaking glimpse of the seamy underbelly of Hollywood and the tragedy of the people it devours.
If you're looking for funhouse spooks that jump out and go "Boo!", look elsewhere. But if you want the deeper and darker frights of the human psyche, Etchison's THE DEATH ARTIST is on a par with the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Shirley Jackson. He's THAT good, and I can't wait to read the rest of his work.
"When They Gave Us Memory" - An actor returns to his hometown to find things have changed...but were they ever the same?
"Deadtime Story" - A teenager receives a threatening phone call while at work. Will he make it home alive?
"Call Home" - A man learns that being a Good Samaritan can be a very bad idea.
"A Wind From The South" - A woman has an unexpected visitor who seems harmless at first, until she begins to notice pieces of her life disappearing from her grasp.
"The Detailer" - A car wash attendant makes a startling discovery about one of his clients.
These are tales that would have made Alfred Hitchcock or Rod Serling proud. I recommend this collection if you appreciate more subtle discomforts, and know that being unsettled can often touch deeper than outright shock.