I first discovered this book when I was put into contact with the Sinister Horror Company by Priya Sharma – we share book recommendations from time to time; and well Priya mentioned that I should take a look at this collection called The Unheimlich Manoeuvre by a writer I’d not heard about before Tracy Fahey.
You see when Priya recommends a book, I jump. So a few days later it arrived – a beautiful hardback deluxe edition.
And this is where the love affair started – both with the book and also with Tracy Fahey; from the moment I turned that cover, I was seduced from the very first page. This book is a masterpiece of horror, of the strange and uncanny, of the things best left unsaid (and in many of the stories they do, remain unsaid) and Fahey (often) lets the reader come up with their own conclusion to the story, and what is worse than the horrors we conjure from our own twisted minds – all we need is a little push in the right direction, and well Fahey shoves us under the train on numerous occasions.
It’s a collection of twenty stories – a mouth watering prospect indeed for lovers of the short story form, and if you’ve never discovered Fahey before, let me tell you that her writing is like an ice cold drink of water after roaming the desert – it is replenishing for the mind and the soul. It’s also like a rusty knife, it cuts both ways and leaves its mark.
The greats of horror short story writing spring to mind when trying to sum up Tracy Fahey’s work – authors such as Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. Her work in The Unheimlich Manoeuvre is assured and direct, bold and oh so very different from the norm.
There’s no grand set pieces or bloody horror in her stories, instead her collection is a brooding examination of terror in every minute detail. Fahey takes the mundane, the boring stuff of life (although this collection is far from it), normal people, normal lives, normal situations that she then stuffs into the blender, and they emerge as beguiling little snapshots of terror that are drenched in the uncanny.
Fahey writes with such an assured prose, that each story hits its mark and is beautifully crafted – her observational writing is second to none and really highlights the inner workings (scaffolding of her stories) and impacts the readers on many levels – as they are able to connect with her stories as they deal with real people and real lives.
There are so many stories within the collection that are great, and it would be hard for me to pick some personal favourites – but there is one story, one magnificent piece of storytelling, one masterful story that quite literally took my breath away.
‘I Look Like You. I Speak Like You. I Walk Like You’ is a masterstroke in horror writing and in my opinion announces Fahey to the horror world – a difficult read, a haunting read, and one with the most disturbing of outcomes. The story brings to mind the great Daphne du Maurier’s ‘The Scapegoat’ but on steroids! A truly shocking story that is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read… it’s up there in my top ten of all time.
So, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of this book – great things are to come from Tracy Fahey and I’d love to read some longer fiction of hers, a novella or a novel – she’s mastered the short from, I can only imagine what she’d do with a longer piece of work!
The Unheimlich Manoeuvre is published by Sinister Horror Company and is available here.
Tracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction. In 2017, her debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. In 2020, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre Deluxe Edition is released with an accompanying chapbook, Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, both by the Sinister Horror Company.
In 2019, her short story, ‘That Thing I Did’ received an Honourable Mention by Ellen Datlow in her The Year’s Best Horror Volume 11, with five stories on Datlow’s Recommended Reading list for 2019. Her short fiction is published in over twenty-five Irish, US and UK anthologies. She holds a PhD on the Gothic in visual arts, and her non-fiction writing has been published in edited collections and journals. She has been awarded residencies in Ireland and Greece.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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