More Than Midnight
There’s nothing I love more this time of year, when we are steadily approaching Halloween, than to read a good horror story. That’s why I was overjoyed when I received an advance copy of More Than Midnight, a collection of horror tales by Brian James Freeman.
More Than Midnight features five short stories by Brian James Freeman, featuring illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne, with a glowing introduction by author Michael Koryta. The book starts off with What They Left Behind, a ghost story in which a young man learns that the warehouse his father purchased for his new business is home to dozens of souls who died in a fire there years ago. What’s worse is that the deaths in that fire may have actually be caused by something…the same something that is now stalking him and his brother-in-law in the generator room.
What They Left Behind is followed by the psychological thriller, The Final Lesson. In this tale, a widower meets up with the individuals that killed his beloved wife and his neighbors. The fact that they have now come for him is less shocking than the reasons behind their bloody, murderous rampage. But even more shocking is the ending of the story as a mild mannered music teacher finds himself facing the men who stole the happiness from his life forever.
Among Us is pure monster horror. Imagine believing you are being called in for a promotion as thanks for all of your hard work, only to discover that the leadership of the company you work for is not exactly what it seems. And when you refuse to join their "club", they find ways of turning the people you care for most into monsters just like them. This story is a warning to everyone out there to fight back and remember that monsters live among us.
This creepy monster tale is followed by an equally creepy psychological thriller. In Pulled Into Darkness, Edward thought that when he locked up his wife in a mental institution, his family would be safe. He soon learns that some things won't stay locked up. More spooky than Edward's nemesis is the realization that the wrong person may actually have been locked away.
The final story in this collection is Answering the Call in which the lead character finds himself yet again ridding the world of harmful spirits. It's a thankless job and he's only one of a handful willing to do it. If the world only knew just how many demons roamed the Earth and how many dead refused to leave peacefully.
Every single story in the More Than Midnight collection is designed to send a shiver up your spine. Some are spookier than others. For me, the scariest tales are the psychological thrillers. These are the stories that make you think - they give you pause to wonder whether everything you thought you were reading about was exactly as it seemed. It's that twist in the end that makes you read the story all over again, looking for the clues you missed along the way. Thus, I found I enjoyed The Final Lesson and Pulled Into Darkness the most.
Answering the Call was my least favorite and the only reason I could find for not really enjoying it as much as the others is that I really couldn't feel a kinship to the main character. In order to appreciate what he goes through - the thankless job he takes on time and time again in an effort to keep the worst demons from roaming the world - one has to feel some sort of link to the character. I felt no link, so, like most of the people he saves, I didn't care as much as I probably should.
That being said, there are bound to be stories in any collection that you don't exactly jump for joy over. More Than Midnight contains five well-written, scary tales that do exactly what they were designed to do: make you turn on some extra lights, glance once or twice out the window (if reading on a dark night, which is the best time to read these kind of tales anyway) and feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise as your rub at the goose pimples slowly rising on your flesh. These tales were written in the hopes that they would spook you and that's exactly what they do. Mission accomplished!