LOST PLACES is a collection of short stories by Simon Kurt Unsworth published by Ash-Tree Press. Each of the 18 stories it contains are well worth a read. His characters are interesting, his plots imaginative, and he possesses a knack for creating stories that hook you from the start. Whenever planning our family vacations, I’m always on the lookout for someplace I can revel in my love of all things eerie. That’s what reading these tales did for me. They transported me to resorts, beaches, a rustic forest lodge, a church on a small Greek island, to name a few, which have been infused with supernatural forces picking at the threads of reality.
While I enjoyed all the stories in this collection, some stood out as personal favorites.
• “A Different Morecambe” – I found this story about a man taking his young son on a routine daytrip to a seaside resort to be the eeriest. The resort is in bad shape and perhaps not so deserted as it first appears.
• “The Old Man’s Pantry” – An avid runner comes across a disturbing dummy dressed like a man who used to ambush and kill travelers centuries before. This encounter is only the beginning of the danger to come.
• “Stevie’s Duck” – I didn’t expect to like this story based on its title. How could a story about a duck be remotely scary? After reading this dark, forbidding tale, I found the answer.
• “Forest Lodge” – A father takes his son away to a forest lodge after a fight with his wife. The boy begins to see a disturbing ghost that seems to take interest in him. This spooky ghost story has a great twist ending.
• “The Animal Game” – A support group plays a game where they pick an animal that most represents them. The game has unexpected and terrifying results. A great concept masterfully realized.
• “An Afternoon with Danny” – A young, divorced father delights in the time spent with his toddler son at Pirate World. The day turns grim when something dark makes its presence felt.
• “The Pennine Tower Restaurant” – An unusual architectural tower has a bizarre and dangerous history. All the deaths, disappearances, and ethereal glimpses attached to the structure are documented here. This riveting tale, presented as fact, comes complete with detailed, collaborating footnotes.
• “The Church on the Island” – This story was nominated for the 2008 World Fantasy Award for best short story. It’s about a woman on vacation in Greece who becomes obsessed with a lonely church built on a small island nearby. She swims there and is met by the caretaker, who shows her the secret purpose behind the church’s existence.
Review by Matt Cowan