Wrathbone and Other Stories is a compilation of works from Jason Parent published by Comet Press. The collection includes five uniquely different stories, not quite novellas but a bit longer than your typical short story. Don’t let the small size of the book dissuade you: each one of these stories will draw you in and spit you out.
Wrathbone takes a dark day in American history and turns it into a horrific nightmare. Our narrator witnesses the association of Abraham Lincoln and is slowly taken over by madness. Though the real officer Rathbone truly was present during the assassination and eventually ended up in an asylum, this story takes the Poe approach in The Tell-Tale Heart and allows the reader to ride along as the madness slowly sets in. History has never been so frightening.
The Only Good Lawyer follows defense attorney Bradley Walsh, a well-paid man who goes to extreme and sometimes illegal lengths to win his case. When black magic enters the courtroom during the case of a murdered girl, justice soon takes a wicked turn and readers are forced to decide who the hero truly is.
Dorian’s Mirror is a twist on the Oscar Wilde classic The Picture of Dorian Gray. The difference here being that Wilde’s character never ages after selling his soul so that a painting will absorb the aging for him. But in Parent’s version, the main character’s vanity is challenged by the aging visions he sees in the mirror. Madness is not far behind.
For the Birds begins with the feel of a predictable tale, but ends up being quite the opposite. A political cartoonist with a pet macaw named Joji – who happens to have a hunger for meat – encounter two violent thugs in a home invasion that quickly turns toward the macabre.
Revenge is a Dish is a smorgasbord of twists and turns (see what I did there?). A down on his luck chef finds himself adrift at sea, contemplating vengeance on those who cast him away. What transpires is as horrific as it is entertaining.
At about 160 pages, Wrathbone and Other Stories is ideal in length for introducing new fans to Jason Parent’s work. A quick read that is not too daunting but just enough to whet your appetite. The elegant prose mixed with the dark and twisted imagination of the author brings horror to a new level. But what really stands out in this collection is the thematic range readers are provided. One would be hard pressed to look back and consider each of these stories are by the same author, and that is how it should be.