Sinister Mix by Brian Bowyer

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Sinister Mix has every trigger warning / content warnings under the sun – but that’s to be expected from a master of extreme horror! I just wanted you to know that before you head in… because you might not come out the way you started.

I’ve read four of Brian’s books now and this one, his most recent is my favourite of his, you can see the growth of his writing and although like his other works they’re straight to the point, not flowery prose, this one had some wonderful lines that I wished I’d come up with myself – the imagination behind these stories is dark and twisted and bloody brilliant!

Family Portrait – Wow what a way to start the collection. Here Bowyer treats us to a family in grief after losing their son. Father, mother and daughter do what they can to survive, the dad hits the bottle, the mum resorts to pain medication pills and the daughter – well she’s got her own way of dealing with things, feeding the skeleton in the garden. This is a disturbing tale, but what I found most disturbing is how the parental units have checked out and we see their daughter living in a world where these drink and drug addictions are normalised, that aspect of the story broke me, and the ending, well that was a boot crushing all those pieces of me to dust.

First Date – Bowyer loves to trick the reader, having them think one thing and then when we’re comfortable he just goes right ahead and pulls the rug out from under us. This can be said for First Date, which all the ways through from certain snippets of conversation I thought was heading in the direction of my choosing and then bang, Bowyer thrusts us into an even more macabre situation. This one has the creep factor and one fabulous ending.

Maternal Flame – Wow. A powerhouse of a story, a mother loses her son whilst out shopping. She fears abduction, she enters into denial, she waits, she drinks and the phone doesn’t ring. She craves to have him back with her, yearning with a maternal instinct so strong that even the devil should fear her rage; and then the phone rings. This is a tinderbox of a story and Bowyer delivers it masterfully, gore riddled but utterly compelling.

Yersinia-Z – An alcoholic couple come upon another survivor in the wake of the Yersinia-Z virus, they’re immune because of their alcohol intake, so the worlds survival is in the hands of drunks. It’s a vaccination at the end of a bottle or four, but there is something out there that is more deadly than the Yersinia-Z virus and it stalks them with deadly intent. I enjoyed this apocalyptic vision by Bowyer and again it’s told with his no nonsense prose and urgent storytelling voice.

Degrees of Separation – Reads like a coked up Du Maurier story, if she loved writing about the most depraved and heinous acts, but it’s definitely got the twists one expects from her work. This one is dark. It’s disturbing and bleak, not many writers would go here but Bowyer treads where others fear to go…horrific in all the right places.

The Box – One can’t write a story titled The Box without me thinking of Richard Matheson’s story of the same title, of a choice to be made where others will suffer. This story follows that same premise, but this one is told with Bowyer’s flair for the macabre and depraved. The final third of this story blew me away, the genius of it made me nod my head rigorously in appreciation for the story and Bowyer’s imagination.

Home Invasion – Bowyer does it again, talk about lightening never striking the same place twice. If this keeps up this whole damn book will be scorched by the strikes he keeps hitting. I really enjoyed this one and the mid point sends us a curveball I wasn’t expecting, but it’s a banger, a great little story.

The Black Yacht – Actions have consequences and when a mother decides to sell her daughter for the day, to fuel her heroin habit, when she can’t find a dealer she is soon met by a tall dark stranger who makes her a proposition she can’t turn down. But we soon learn that it’s better the devil you know than the one you don’t, because all bets are off!

Siren Song – I love the Siren lore and described in Bowyer’s hands they are as they should be, nightmarish creatures. This one is short and to the point, the song captivating until it is heard no longer.

Casa Fiesta – This one has the feeling of an Eli Roth script, the set up and the bloody conclusion. The way we know what’s happening or going to happen but are unable to stop the butchery that is coming. The end lines are haunting as we know that this is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s not as original as the other stories but Bowyer makes it damn well memorable!

Long Way Home – A spooky piece of almost flash fiction from Bowyer this time, proving that short fiction and flash are within the man’s fabulous remit for conjuring memorable horror yarns. This one is subtle horror, and a nice change of pace from the breakneck carnage in many of these tales.

Losses and Gains – This ones a trauma porn fest – if you like your sex with a little cutting, a little burning, some eating of body parts and a lot of gratuitous violence, well this one is for you, if none of that hits your spot then I’d say jump to the next story this one goes places I didn’t want to go. A bit much for me, but I got through it, shame I can’t say the same for those involved.

Deliverance – This was a fabulous story and the central theme, which I won’t talk about here was stunning – such an original concept and one that is both chilling and heartbreaking all at once. A father starts to get messages in his mind, and decides to follow their call, wherever that will lead! This one pulled at the heartstrings and also delivered on the shock and awe that we come to know from Bowyer’s work.

Hollywood Ending – Barbaric, brutal, twisting and turning oh and a typewriter! This one is bananas crazy, but I enjoyed it, the way that out two protagonists are so desensitised to what their lives have become is almost comical and Bowyer delivers some cracking lines in the face of such butchery. A fitting way to end this most brutal of collections.

Sinister Mix is available with all of Brian’s other titles from Amazon. Go check him out!

Brian Bowyer

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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