Book Review: Tales from the Lake Vol. 2 (Edited by Cavender/Mynhardt/Audsley)

“Stories bleeding with talent!”

talesHorror takes on many faces. Fear wears many masks. Peering into the glassy-still surface of the lake, digging deep into one’s darkest thoughts and extracting what it is we are most afraid of, you never know whose eyes you’ll see peering back from beneath the surface – a reflection of something so frightening, so unimaginable, so you.

Tales From the Lake Vol. 2 is the second anthology of a sure-to-be long-running series from Crystal Lake Publishing. This hard-hitting volume explores the word fear and what each character’s deeply personal monsters look like that bring about such fear – each protagonist battling an evil that is as unique as it is terrifying. Some stories fall directly into the horror genre while others fringe on psychological and/or transgressive sub-genres.

The first story, written by Jim Goforth and appropriately titled ‘Lago De Los Perdidos’ (translation: Lost Lake), is a great introduction for what lies in the pages ahead. Lost, remorseful, and alone, we find ourselves staring into a motionless, dormant lake only to discover the gruesome horror that lies beneath the surface and any hope for redemption quickly fading. ‘Winter’s Dollhouse’ by Rena Mason was one that really stuck with us, as the idea of drowning has always been a frightening one. Trapped below the frozen surface, we feel our breath slipping, our oxygen diminishing with each weak controlled breath, the light and air just on the other side of the icy lid. Only after we breach the surface, unsettled and gasping for air, does Mason reveal to us the true monster of the story. ‘Ripperscape’ by Vincenzo Bilof placed third in Crystal Lake’s Tales from the Lake Horror Writing Contest. It’s a frightening and disturbing tale about how far some will go when given the opportunity, exploring the ugliest of human psychology. With our hands immersed in blood and intestine, detached all-together from what we have come to know as humanity, we discover that sometimes there is simply no turning back. ‘Forever Dark’ by Jonathan Winn placed second in this year’s contest. This is a beautifully written story about regret. Like a surgeon, Winn’s words meticulously slice through our minds bringing about vivid imagery, some of which is unnerving and stomach-turning. First place in the Tales from the Lake Horror Writing Contest was awarded to ‘Descending’ by John Whalen. This one leans more into the psychological thriller realm. The haunted elevator descends as a shrill evil slowly envelopes us, our claustrophobia growing by the moment. We have to do the unthinkable to escape, but trusting ourself as well as the creature pulling the strings may not be wise. It’s a straight-forward read, a little less literary than some, but all in all a strong addition to the collection.

Reading through these nineteen stories, some more than once, there were very few weak moments for us. The stories we mentioned were the ones that took us to that place for whatever reason at that particular moment. The writing was versatile – each one of the contributors had a clear voice and knew what that voice was and how to convey it – and the stories, although so different and distinct from the ones before and after, fit together like a dysfunctional-yet-cohesive family of psychopaths and tortured spirits. Most of the stories made us think; made us work a little, some made us want to throw up, some brought us to asphyxiation, some were just plain frightening and cost us precious sleep, and then there were those few that offered even a glimmer of hope and chance for redemption. One thing they all had in common is: they were and are bleeding with talent.

Tales From the Lake, Vol. 2 is a collection we strongly recommend to horror enthusiasts, or those breaking into the genre hoping to discover something new. Pick up the anthology. Open the book. Read. But before you step foot to the edge and look into the glassy surface of the lake, prepare yourself for whose eyes may be looking back.


Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Kindle (276pp)
Release Date: 11 March 2016

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