What One Wouldn’t Do Edited by Scott J. Moses [Book Review]

I can’t imagine anyone better than Laurel Hightower writing an introduction to ‘What One Wouldn’t Do’, given her novella ‘Crossroads’ so perfectly captures the themes and mood this anthology is focused on. The subject of grief and desperation, specifically the extreme lengths one might go to in order to exorcise these feelings, may not make for particularly cheerful reading, but it certainly makes for a fantastic anthology.

book cover for What One Wouldn't Do by Scott J. Moses

Boasting some big names in literary horror, including Hailey Piper, Eric Larocca and Tim McGregor, as well as some exciting up and comers such as Eric Raglin and J.A.W. McCarthy, ‘What One Wouldn’t Do’ features stories of;

  • A haunted house turned tourist attraction and the tragic story behind the building’s spectral resident
  • A young girl’s imaginary friend carries dark knowledge that threatens the very real people in her life and the secret that they hoped would remain buried 
  • A troubled father searching for a daughter lost to him for over twenty years who believes he may find answers, and vengeance, on a lifelong crusade against a sex trafficking ring
  • The local legend of an evil presence living in a long-abandoned well that will grant wishes to despairing souls with nothing less to lose. Even so, the price may prove too high to pay.
  • A couple with a terrible secret who find themselves in a desperate scramble to lock themselves away from the world, and each other, before their true natures are unleashed

A grieving son who is desperately seeking answers regarding his father’s unexplained death and may find more than he bargained for when a séance takes an unexpected turn

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There is a truly impressive diversity of subject matter within the pages of ‘What Wouldn’t Do’, which offers up some outlandish tales involving werewolves, witches, fairies and ghosts, alongside the more grim and gritty stories of child abduction, doomed marriages and unsolved murders.

The settings range from dystopian futures, zombie apocalypses and fairy-tale castles to suburban homes, hospital rooms and parking lots. Like all good anthologies, there is a story to suit every taste, but ‘What One Wouldn’t Do’ also avoids the pitfalls of inconsistency, with every short and poem offering something different, but all delivering a quality and engaging story.

Given the subject matter, more light-hearted entries are few and far between. There is some fun to be had with entries such as Angela Sylvaine’s ‘Blood is Thicker’ or Hailey Piper’s ‘The Thread That Dreams are Made of’. At the other end of the spectrum are painfully bleak offerings such as ‘Take Control’ by Emma E. Murray or ‘Ella Minnow’ by Nick Younker (the latter of which is also perhaps my favourite story of the collection). The mix is welcome, as too many dreary tales would make for an immensely downbeat read, whereas too many ‘upbeat’ tales would undoubtedly dilute the message of the book. The balance of the two is perfect.

‘What One Wouldn’t Do’ is packed with beautifully written prose, offering story after story that will linger and stay with you. An unforgettable reading experience and a towering accomplishment.

Richard Martin

Richard Martin

Reviewer

Richard Martin started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatized himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner and an inappropriate amount of books. 

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