‘Slow Poison & Other Dark Tales’ by Elizabeth Cage
Slow Poison: There are people who nourish and people who poison. It can sometimes take a lifetime to realise that…
Keeping Mum: A cautionary tale for anyone who doubts that mum knows best. Perhaps Claire should have listened to her mother?
Puddles: Four cute puppies in the home – what’s not to love? Plenty, according to house-proud Marion. But what’s the solution?
Death by Chocolate: Anthony has a plan. But life rarely goes to plan. A story of thwarted ambition, soured passion and murderous intent. And lots of chocolate…
Mother Love: When a mother / daughter bond becomes disturbingly dysfunctional.
Boodle: Callie has trouble coming to terms with the disappearance of her beloved cat and blames her husband, Frank. But has Boodle really gone for good?
The Kiss: Can a lover truly forgive when his partner has an affair?
This collection is available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Slow-Poison-other-tales-ebook/dp/B00F777Y5A and http://www.amazon.com/Slow-Poison-other-tales-ebook/dp/B00F777Y5A.
Erotica, commercial, short story, non-fiction writer and poet Elizabeth Cage has been a frequent visitor to my blog: Flash Fiction Friday 69, interview, podcast short stories 24 and spotlight. Needless to say, I’ve put that to the back of my mind when reviewing this story so am as ‘firm but fair’ as I would be with anyone else, although I was on holiday in Germany when I read this collection so in a ‘happy place’ for sure.
There are just seven stories in this collection but the lack of quantity is certainly made up for the by the quality.
Although the title of the sixth story, Boodle, intrigued me, I decided to read the stories in order, as the author intended (or I assume so).
The first (title) story, Slow Poison, is written in second-person viewpoint, my favourite point, so a real treat, and the fact that the collection title promised ‘dark’, the first certainly story certainly delivered. With a mix of ups and downs (mostly the latter), Slow Poison is a powerful yet subtle tale of relationships put to the test.
Mothers often have a part to play in stories and while they were sometimes in the background, the second (first-person) story, ‘Keeping Mum’, features one in particular and like in the first story, she’s a force majeure, especially evident at the (superb) ending.
Story 3 is third-person ‘Puddles’, another great title (my favourite word is cuddle!). I love stories that intrigue from the off and this (up to that point) was the most intriguing story and revealed bit-by-bit. Another story where the mother is a task master (I’m a Daddy’s girl), this thread really appealed to me. This story had a particularly familiar feeling about it – not in that I had read a story like it before, but that the narrator was confiding in the reading. A great strength in fiction writing. As a dog lover (and owner), I struggled with the content of this story, but as I learned with Elizabeth’s stories, they often have twists at the end and this was no disappointment.
I started reading first-person story number four, ‘Death by Chocolate’, (which my beloved Kindle Fire HD told me was the midpoint location) while sitting awaiting check-in at Zurich airport. It took this story longer to get to the point (chocolate) but it was so entertaining and insightful (into humans) that I wasn’t willing the story on, although Elizabeth gave me an excuse not to like the plot (I like horses and can take or leave chocolate; I used to work for a chocolate company and was the slimmest person there!). It took me a while to work out that the main character was male – the others had been female to-date and perhaps because the author is, I had (subconsciously) assumed this protagonist would be too. One of the phrases, “Love me, love my sister” had me thinking “uh oh” but again the story’s twists caught me out.
Next up was ‘Mother Love’, another tough story from the off, and quirky, very much to my taste. The thing I, and I’m sure non-British readers, enjoy about stories set in Britain is the occasional mention of authentic items and in this one we had Charing Cross Station and WH Smith.
Second from last was the story I’d been looking forward to, because of its title, ‘Boodle’. This story was a different type of mother love; of a woman to her cat. Although, as I’ve mentioned already, I’m a dog owner, I could relate to her dilemma and read on with interest. I did guess the ending but probably more because I had become accustomed to Elizabeth’s quirky brain (and / or mine!) and even so, it wasn’t a disappointment.
The final story in the collection is ‘The Kiss’. One of the shortest pieces, only a paragraph longer than ‘Mother Love’ but it packs an equally powerful punch that lasts far beyond the final credits.
Although these stories are dark, they often have humour running through them so would appeal to most readers’ tastes… erm, except my mother’s! There are witty phrases inc. ‘Her tongue was sharp enough to split the atom’… brilliant!
A downside? Apart from wanting more stories🙂 and reading a couple of themes that didn’t suit me (a very personal opinion), there isn’t really a negative thing to say about this collection. I did find a very minor typo which can happen in any piece of work, self-published or traditionally published and as someone who reviewed my chick-lit novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, “the story was strong enough to keep me reading”.
Rating for Slow Poison & Other Dark Tales: 4.5 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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