For a story to be considered “great”, there has to be a meaningful connection established with the reader. Something within the words on the pages has to resonate with them. Whether it be through rousing pent-up emotions, or triggering long forgotten memories. The connection needs to be genuine and authentic. If this occurs, we then have true engagement and a wonderful reading experience. This is just such the case in Mists and Megaliths written by author Catherine McCarthy. A top-notch horror anthology which feeds upon genuine human fears and emotions to reel in a wide-eyed audience!
A collection of 10 stories, Mists and Megaliths has something in it for every fan of true horror. From a young girl with an imaginary friend to die for, to a retired coal-miner spending his final days reliving a haunted past. We get to look at a former railway guard who simply cannot figure out where everything went wrong, to a young married couple who tempt fate a little to openly. While it is difficult to pick a favorite in this unique cluster of tales, I would nevertheless include “Retribution” as my top pick. Without a doubt it instills a sophisticated mix of horror coupled with sympathy and compassion. For those who like a comedic punch with their horror, “Three’s a Shroud” will certainly fit the bill! It should also be mentioned that the author begins each story with a short preface which outlines a brief history and personal connection to the tale. A very nice touch.
When Mists and Megaliths is looked at as a complete body of work it is quite impressive. While the tales are all very distinct, they do have many things in common. Indeed, the author more than capably includes the main elements of fictional horror, such as suspense, mystery and fear in all of her tales. It is not “in your face” horror with an inordinate amount of blood and gore however. It is much more subtle and sophisticated in nature and will play upon the reader’s most primal emotions to gain the full impact. For instance, even in the comedic “Three’s a Shroud”, the author cunningly grabs the human fear of being buried beneath the earth and slowly left to rot. Subtle yet potent!
While the actual story events are captivating, they still need great characters to help carry them along. Once again, McCarthy gets top marks. The characters are entirely engaging, realistic and believable. Each of them could be you or I. Thus the readers can easily visualize themselves actually inside this story. They are not superheroes or flashy players. Instead, they are real people with hopes, dreams and flaws. In fact, through these characters, the author is able to reveal not only their intrinsic faults, but ultimately the ever increasing shortcomings of human society overall.
Last, but certainly not least, the author has used Wales as the setting for all the tales. This definitely adds to the overall authenticity of the various stories. The knowledge of, and affection for her homeland is obvious, and her personal connections empower the writing. The words flow with poetic grace as the setting is described in such finite detail that it creates vivid images and arouses the senses.
Mists and Megaliths is highly recommended for readers who love excellent writing which will keep you glued to the pages from start to finish. 5 out of 5 Misty Stars for this one!