Lethal Lore by Monica Shaughnessy is a collection of four stories that aim to describe the dark side of folklore.
Simple Math The story of the doppelganger does not end with just two people looking alike. That would just be a familiar story of twins. In this story, a lightning strike has provided a double for William. Billy, William’s double, existed in an alternate universe. Billy and William looked alike and had experienced similar childhoods. Both had experienced kidney failure requiring the genetic matching of their mothers to survive.
Billy had arrived at a bad time for William. Not good at cards or gambling in general, William had lost so much money that he had decided to kill himself and trust an insurance company to pay his wife and daughter the benefit money. They would pay off his gambling debts and have a bit left over to start a new life. That wouldn’t work if Billy the look alike was on the scene. Somebody was going to have to die. Why not Billy? The insurance money would be paid and William would have a shot at a new life.
But William had not counted on the birds with teeth. He thought of them as an oddity, not a threat.
Killer Jack Hardy was going to the store to pick up a lottery ticket and maybe some whiskey then return home to Vera. When he met Wade and Jerry in the convenience store Hardy accepted their offer to go on a hunt for a jackalope. They promised Hardy a big profit if they could find one with horns. Hardy was separated from them during the hunt and had a lot of time to think about his situation. How had the two strangers known his nickname? Maybe the hunt for a jackalope was a ruse to get him alone and kill him. Who would want him dead? Maybe Vera. The three hunters meet a jackalope; Wade and Jerry meet an early and gruesome demise. Hardy’s suspicions are confirmed when he sees text messages between Vera, Wade, and Jerry. It is time for Hardy to make his deliveries to Vera.
Hell Cent The Professor was doing a study on the decline of civility in society. He needed human subjects for the study but he didn’t just ask for volunteers; he chose subjects. To introduce some randomness in the study The Professor used a penny to decide who was worthy of study and who was not. Courtney had been worthy; he even kept parts of her in the car. The Professor thought Angel was worthy also but it seems Angel was not willing to make the sacrifice The Professor thought necessary. She seemed intent on stealing his lucky penny and taking over control of The Professor’s own experiment.
The Bells of Bury St. Edmunds To the outer world Agnes and Henry were brother and sister. Although the relationship was accurate, they called themselves Vik and sister Venna. No matter the name, they were not human. They lived under the protection of a noble, Lord Richard, but now Vik was sick and they needed the willing cooperation of Ulin, a monk who had medical training. Ulin’s methods were traditional bloodletting and freezing. Vik did not survive and Venna wants revenge from Ulin. But Venna was not entirely innocent as it was she who had encouraged Vik to explore this world. She had ignored Vik’s warnings not to go into the forbidden zone, choosing instead to seek the source of seductive music coming from the zone. They were lucky to be accepted into Lord Richard’s household and protection. After Vik’s death, Venna goes on to become quite a bloodthirsty being, all in the name of justice, of course.
After each of these tales, the author provides background information into the beliefs that are the basis of the stories. This is an interesting novel for fantasy lovers; as the author tries to rationalize their creation and presentation in the real world, literature students should also find it interesting.