Death is author Paul Kane’s collection of ten short stories and one play, all with a central theme of mortality. From its title and subject matter, you’d be forgiven in thinking this is going to be a set of grim tales, seeing characters encountering a cloaked figure with a scythe, or walking into a bright light. In every single one of the stories, Kane toys with the usual clichés or avoids them altogether; there are also laughs to be had, with a wicked sense of humour on display from start to finish. Be warned if you’re in a public place – nobody expects a giggle from someone reading a book with the grim reaper on the cover.
The standard of writing remains high from start to finish, although two highlights stand out. The Return of Mortis-Man is a pulp superhero tale packed with thrills and spills, as well as some truly poignant moments, a story that will have anyone familiar with comics raising a wry smile all the way through it. It has numerous obvious inspirations, yet remains utterly unique. The Lazarus Condition appears to be almost superficial at first, as police attempt to solve the return of a man who has risen from the dead and taken it upon himself to visit his elderly mother. This causes understandable problems, but what could have easily been a standard procedural with a twist is made into so much more; packed with depth and emotional resonance, it’s incredibly moving.
Kane possesses the ability of making readers care about his characters, even in the shortest of these stories, and can get us on their side in just a few words. He’s adept at pulling the rug out from under anyone who thinks they’ve got the twist ending figured out, whether it’s by adding a second turn of the screw or going in a completely different, yet fitting, direction. Death is a first-class collection from a first-class writer, one who can create moments of great terror and amusement, one after the other. An absolute delight from start to finish, it’s a superb introduction to anyone who hasn’t read Paul Kane’s work before and will surely appease his long-term fans as well.
DEATH / AUTHOR: PAUL KANE / PUBLISHER: SINISTER HORROR COMPANY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW