Janine Pipe bring us her debut collection of stories, a writer who I first came to discover in a few anthologies has now collated many of her previously published stories into on fun horror filled debut collection.
Twisted: Tainted Tales is a fun read – pure escapism on every page.
Jill our driving force of the collection has gone to an empty house that is being sold off but whilst she is there she discovers some old stories from the previous owner – and what transpires is Jill recounting these stories to us, it’s a macabre mix tape of sorts, and as each story finishes we return to Jill who details and introduces the next horrors for us to enjoy! I only wish we’d learned more about Jill at the stories conclusion – maybe Jill will return?
I did really enjoy this collection as I said it was pure escapism on the page, this isn’t to say I didn’t gel with some of the stories – because it’s a collection and you can’t like every story, or it’s very hard to come by like hens teeth – I felt that there were a few too many vampiric / lycanthropy tales for me, it’s personal taste but Vampires haven’t been scary for me since ‘Let The Right One In’. And although it is Janine’s style of narrative voice – the expletives and dark compost of horror akin to Dog Soldiers (which I know is a personal favourite), I feel that sometimes (sometimes) these two elements dilute the full blown impact of the horror on the page.
But having said that I really enjoyed it – I loved the escapism, the retro vibe to the collection, the nostalgia that flows from the page and builds as the collection goes on – I also really loved the breadcrumbs that Janine puts into each story and highlights in an author note afterwards. These are either where names of characters came from, films or stories that inspired her work and all of that stuff was brilliant to read and discover!
Footsteps – this had been my introduction to Janine Pipe and it did everything you could hope for – it showcased a new writer to me who I have championed ever since! This one is dark and oh so bloody!
When Doves Cry – I like my horror gothic, I like my horror quiet and subtle and with the horror elements weird / this story is all of that and more, and has some of the prettiest hands in town.
I Want to Break Free – Here we have a great split POV tale of the Hunter and the Hunted and we are left to see which one is worse. It is vampiric and lycanthropy in theme and story elements and so we get to see both sides of the coin.
Maneater – In this story we see two detectives searching for a killer that drains the blood from their victims – think almost Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider’ in tone. Knowing Janine’s love for the vampiric and lycanthrope I knew it had to be one or the other – it was a great little story, a moral locked in there too. But because as I mentioned knowing Janine’s love of those staples of horror I got the twist a little before it was revealed, but it didn’t stop my enjoyment.
Addicted to Love – this one is Splatterpunk to the max – it’s all the visceral goodness on show and a lot of sex and violence. I don’t know if I can ever look Janine in the eye again after this story… it had elements of ‘Basic Instinct’ and a whole host of other cool nostalgic references.
Sweet Child O Mine – The collection features a couple of shorter stories (Janine calls them flash horror) this one is super short, but oh my does it pack the creep factor. I bloody loved this story. The eeriness and the unsaid about one of the dynamic tools in this really gets you thinking / and the ending, what is going to happen?
Tainted Love – A story about love and infatuation and what one will do to get the one – but it’s Janine so it’s going to have a little twist to throw you off the scent! There is a small vampiric vibe to this story which I felt was unneeded and it could have been a stronger piece without that trope… but it’s all down to personal taste I guess and I still enjoyed it, but I feel it would have made the ending that much more shocking if Pipe had veered away from that trope.
Lost in the Shadows – Another short flash piece, I enjoyed it but, but I got the twist pretty early on.
It’s a Sin – Is a creepy little ghost story, that draws you into a missing person case, but is a person missing if their ghost comes to visit? I really loved this one and it reminded me of ‘Lovely Bones’ and was just a proper creepy yarn!
Love is a Battlefield – is an homage to ‘The Running Man’ there is not a lot here that is original and in Janine’s notes she mentioned it’s a mash up between ‘The Running Man’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ – both books and films I bloody loved… so for me it was pretty damn fun!
Running With The Devil – This one is a chilling folk lore / legend story – you know the ones that are passed down from community to community, the ones we hear around a campfire or work their way into your head as a child and grow more macabre as the years pass and you add to the horror that blooms in your head. This one focuses on the legend of Trent Barrow and the story is set around Halloween so the creep factor is high with this one – (I also read it whilst I was visiting my family in Dorset – where the myth is from – and it gave it those extra chill vibes because of that!)
Paradise City – teenage themes and weird horror combine into a deeply rich story that had me chilled. I love weird horror and this was right up my street and the final line is delivered so clean that it made me chuckle at the stories brutal conclusion!
School’s out Forever – a mighty fine creeping offering here, this one you could taste the horror, feel the unease creep down your neck and when reading the author notes I can see why – because this place is real, the horrors, the atrocities – Janine writes from experience and it shows.
Living on a Prayer – I enjoyed the premise of this story, the whole prayer / incantation that binds the soul – creates a revenant. A special story, one I enjoyed!
Bones of Boarded-up Baby Bodies Behind the Bath-Panel – a sub genre that I didn’t know I loved until I read Michael Clark’s ‘Patience of a Dead Man’ trilogy was that of haunted houses and Pipe delivers a beast of a tale here that gave me what I crave from that trope!
Nobody’s Fool – nothing creepier than children, I say this from a parents perspective too – anything with children in is scary and when they are formed by Janine and with these little quirks, it turns out they are a nightmarish vision.
They – Pipe saves a cracking story to close off the collection, although I’m not a huge fan of lycanthropy stories this one had the IT factor and throw into that a whole lot of nostalgia and coming of age – it was a great way to end an exciting collection!
A solid collection that shows above all Janine Pipe’s range and love of all things horror, a collection in my opinion should provide one thing and that is variety and variety that makes me want to pick up more work by that author and this does exactly that!
I’m looking forward to a novella or novel from Pipe soon and so should you!
Independently Published and available on Amazon.
Trading a police badge for a pen, Janine cites her life-long love of horror as the catalyst for creating crazy and creepy stories.
She has been published in several anthologies and is about to release her debut short story collection, Twisted: Tainted Tales.
Footsteps, which appears in the NHS charity anthology Diabolicca Britannica, has been nominated for a 2020 Splatterpunk Award.
When she isn’t writing, Janine is also an editor and publicist for Kandisha Press, a reviewer for Scream Magazine, Horror DNA and Night Worms and even a podcaster and booktuber.
She is also a wife and mum and loves coffee and trips to Walt Disney World.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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