The fifth entry in this themed series of anthology book from Black Shuck features eleven stories with the title Midsummer Eve. Fortunately, they are not all in the folk horror genre and some of them only have summer solstice as a time reference rather than completely embedded in the event.
The one story that leans to the traditional folk horror vibe of Midsommar and The Wicker Man is Kelly White’s entry, which follows a group of friends attending what they imagine to be a fun, Glastonbury-style event but find themselves in the midst of a genuine pagan event. Even though there’s an inevitability to it, it’s full of great characters and naturalistic dialogue.
One of several veteran authors included in the collection, Stephen Law’s story opens proceedings and instantly makes the reader uneasy. What appears to be a regular exchange between lovers turns gradually more sinister with each page before the horrific conclusion. It’s a tale that really gets under the skin, but what follows keeps the pace nicely, all winning in their own style.
Jenn Ashworth’s tale is perhaps a little close to the bone at the moment, dealing with a couple stranded in a luxury island hotel while a pandemic has closed down the world. It has many touching moments, though as well as neatly satirising the ‘old British spirit’, pompousness, and entitlement.
Among the subjects touched on in the stories are lost loves, devotion, obsession, and melancholy. These feelings help the horror take shape and although there is very little bloodshed (don’t worry, there is some though!), the prevailing atmosphere created by the writers more than makes up for it. The great thing about collections like this is that with so many varied voices, there will be something for everyone, and each person will have their own favourites. Edited by Steve J. Shaw and including writers such as Linda Nagle, Simon Clark, Lisa Morton and more, this is an omnibus worth having.