Ok first things first, this short story collection is full of adult content. It deals with the very dark and disturbing aspects of human nature; there are a lot of parts that are difficult to read, and can be quite upsetting, so if you are particularly sensitive this probably isn't the book for you. However, Henry Martin's writing is so skilful and the way he has put this collection together is truly something special, so if you are still intrigued by the end of this review I would definitely give it a go.

Summary: "...an eerie glimpse into the lives of over twenty diverse characters. Spanning many fiction genres - often dark and disturbing - this collection of twenty-eight unrelated stories delves into the disquiet thoughts that lie deep within our consciousness." (taken from the excerpt on the Amazon Kindle website).

Over the 173 pages of the collection, readers are subjected to twenty-eight very emotionally exhausting stories and characters that stay with you long after you've stopped reading. This collection demands a lot from you simply because once you're hooked you have no choice but to keep reading. Martin's writing is incredible; he is an intelligent author that seems to really understand his work and his readers. He is aware that what he has written will make people uncomfortable, disgusted and horrified; he knows how to create and build tantalising suspense; he has thought very carefully about how to order his work in the most effective and varied way possible; and most of all, he knows how to create a world in which the reader can only rely on the quality of his writing for any kind of security - you are never at ease when reading these stories. For a debut collection, this is exceptional.

Naturally, there are some stories I preferred more than others. Stories like 'Being True To Self' genuinely horrified me to the point where my initial response was so negative I didn't think it should have been included at all, whereas others like 'The Beginning' are focused character studies that allow you to explore a certain psyche in as much depth as possible, and Martin has cleverly positioned them in the collection to slow down the pacing and allow readers brief respite. Stories like 'Love is a Damned Thing' and 'Sometimes it's Better to Give than Receive' are genuinely surprising in their softer tone, and he conveniently saves these for the latter half of the collection, almost as treats for readers who have endured the truly twisted tales and gotten this far.

Full list of the 28 titles and my brief thoughts:

I found the best way to read this collection is in breaks - I wouldn't suggest reading this from cover to cover in one sitting, simply because I think it would prevent you from appreciating each story individually. They also carry so much of an impact that sometimes it is better to have a break between them; for example, I read this when I was on the train or the tube and I found it was a good way of absorbing the events and themes without them completely taking over my mind.

There are some stories from this collection I would definitely read again, and Henry Martin is an author I would happily read more from. As stated earlier, I would definitely recommend this to anyone, provided you take the disclaimer into account.

Published by Avni Bhagwan