Last February I looked at ten short stories by Anna Taborska (https://horrordelve.com/2021/02/23/ten-terrifying-tales-of-anna-taborska/), some of them from her 2020 Bram Stoker Award nominated collection Bloody Britain. I enjoyed those stories so much I decided to read and review that book in its entirety.
Reading through these stories, it’s easy to see why the collection was nominated for a Stoker Award as Anna’s skill as a writer really shines through it. I found myself quickly hooked into each story and invested in the characters involved in them. Just be warned, Anna doesn’t pull any punches in the tales she tells and won’t shy away from viciousness when a story calls for it, as is evidenced in“Teatime”. There are lots of cool supernatural ideas at play in these stories as well, such as in how the forest affects the protagonist in “The Cat Sitter”. This collection contains stories with a Lovecraftian-bent to them such as “Out of the Light”, haunted house stories like “The Coachman’s Cottage” and “The Haggis Queen”, intriguing twists on the Faustian tale as with “Rock Star” and much more. Each story also has its own evocative panel of artwork crafted by the always excellent Reggie Oliver!
In short, Bloody Britain is an excellent horror collection!
1. “Night of the Crone” (2011) – A group of delinquent boys, known to be vandals and druggies, decide to try and dig up some treasure which legend claims is hidden beneath ancient, stone formations known as Long Meg and her Daughters. An ancient force that is tied to that area makes them pay for the decision.
2. “Cyril’s Mission” (2020) – Cyril is a priest who’s lost his faith but continues to serve the congregation of the small village of Mortkirk where he has been assigned. Recently, a couple of children have gone missing, and Cyril discovers that the area experiences a slew of such disappearances every 300 years. Perhaps it’s all somehow related to the image of a giant, worm-like beast depicted in the church’s ancient, stained glass window.
3. “Teatime” (2015) – A very intelligent but sadistic man who’s obsessed with studying people’s fears embarks on a series of violent murders where he gets to act on his preoccupation. This is an excellent tale that keeps the pages turning, but it isn’t for the faint of heart, particularly in regards to the terrifying ways these murders are administered.
4. “The Haggis Queen” (2020) – In a Glasgow apartment, a man is awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of clanking crockery coming from his kitchen. He’s shocked to discover the dark figure of a woman repetitively rubbing her hands together in his sink. The woman, who shouldn’t be there, speaks of how much she hates the smell of haggis. This is a very brief but effective tale.
5. “The Cat Sitter” (2019) – Jane agrees to stay at her friend’s new house in the country to take care of her cat while she and her husband are away on vacation. The house is surrounded by the Ash Forest, an ominous place where everything seems twisted and lifeless and where shadows don’t fall right. The cat seems concerned about something in the forest and Jane starts to have strange mental disassociations as days go by. This very eerie novelette was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. It also contains mentions of The Liber Tenebrarum, the Necronomicon, and Miskatonic University.
6. “The Lemmy/Trump Test” (2014) – A club who believe “… in order to save the economy, we must get rid of 4 million extra useless mouths” sets out on a campaign of brutalization and murder of less fortunate people who they call Scroungers.
7. “The Gatehouse” (2013) – Soon after her husband and daughter are killed in a tragic fire, a woman moves into a house she inherited from an uncle she’d never met. The house seems to be attuned to her. She learns the place is a key location for a local sect of people who worship the demon-god Baphomet of which her uncle was a member. They believe she can help them with a ritual which could help bring back her deceased family members. This is an excellent, gothic-style horror tale which is very cinematic in how it unfolds
8. “A Walk In the Park” (2020) – After moving to a new area, a woman takes her little poodle for a walk through a beautiful park she discovers. There she is met by a couple of spectral dogs who follow her.
9. “Out of the Light” (2014) – Charles, an exceptional college student with a gift for picking up different languages, becomes obsessed with deciphering a rare, ancient book called the Liber Tenebrarum which means Book of Darkness. This book has a collection of separate stories, each written in a different language. When he translates them, he finds they all recount various horrible events of torture and perversions. Even though these stories wear on him mentally and spiritually, he can’t make himself stop reading it. This is an excellent story and the Liber Tenebrarum belongs on the same shelf as other cursed, evil books such as The Necronomicon and The Revelations of Gla’aki!
10. “Formby Point” (2019) – A man visiting his parents leaves early so he can return to a place he loved as a child called Formby Point. The area has been the sight of some horrific events lately, but that doesn’t dissuade him from going anyway. When he arrives at the beach, he sees the remains of old shipwrecks which have become visible due to a particularly low tide of late. Then he hears a voice calling to him from the water.
11. “Rock Star” (2020) – David, the lead singer of a band called Hellgate, has the looks and the voice for the job but possesses zero ability to write original songs for them to perform. This prevents them from moving beyond simply playing cover songs at local bars and clubs. It all changes when David receives a letter from a mysterious stranger who offers to write songs for him for which he can take the credit but with a cost. Seeing no other options, he agrees to these terms. After traveling to the various odd locations to collect these songs, David comes to find their lyrics very disturbing and violent, but in his quest for fame he performs them anyway.
12. “The Coachman’s Cottage” (2020) – While attending a family gathering at a renovated eighteenth century manor house, a man chooses to take the nearby Coachman’s Cottage for his lodgings so as not to be disturbed by the other’s revelries. He finds his stay there unpleasant, however, as an angry presence born from a horrific event that happened there long ago is tied to the place. This is a great haunted house tale!
13. “The Bloody Tower” (2013) – The Tower of London is converted into a prison camp for suspected terrorists run by a sadistic, overzealous warden who brings back old methods of torture in order to force the prisoners to talk, whether they are guilty or not. These horrific acts awaken the specters of those who suffered and died there in the past and subsequently begin haunting it again with renewed and deadly vigor.
14. “Daylight Robbery” (2020) – Set in a future where thegulf separating the luxuries of the rich and the struggles of the poor have been further exacerbated, a destitute man tries to save a wealthy man who has been involved a bad car accident. He will pay dearly for this selfless act of kindness, however.
Anna’s Website: https://annataborska.wixsite.com/horror
Bloody Britain US Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Bloody-Britain-Anna-Taborska/dp/0957296290
Bloody Britain UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloody-Britain-Anna-Taborska/dp/0957296290/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1C11GZWSJ5O1C&keywords=Bloody+Britain+Anna+Taborska&qid=1643943959&sprefix=bloody+britain+anna+taborska%2Caps%2C183&sr=8-1
Anna’s U.S. Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Anna-Taborska/e/B00DRIPW96%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
Anna’s. U.K. Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anna-Taborska/e/B00DRIPW96
Reviewed by Matt Cowan