Cruel Works of Nature by Amor Gemma is billed as a collection of 11 illustrated horror novellas. This is from Haunted House Publishing, an enterprise associated with Tobias Wade. His recommendations have always assured me a good read in the horror genre. The illustrations show up in Kindle as a series of attractive drawings that precede each chapter. This is a concern for me because Kindle books with illustrations are not always compatible with all devices. This collection worked, and the illustrations were a nice touch.
Foliage ***** “I wrote my first letter to Louise a few months after she died.” I feel this is a powerful first line for the first story. After Dan Burrows lost his wife, he made a life-changing decision. From office worker to odd-job man, he may have felt getting closer to the earth was getting closer to his wife. When Fay Lockwood offered a job clearing the massive plant growths that were overpowering the mansion, she had abandoned years before, Dan was eager to start. What he found was not the type of connection he anticipated.
Jack in the Box ***** I won’t copy this story’s first line (vulgar word alert). Yes, this story is about a toy that many readers are familiar with. Barry just wanted to buy his wife a birthday present that was not the usual perfume. The present was unusual. He should have bought the perfume.
Black Sand ***** She had been a combat medic in Iraq and served three years until an IED wounded her so much the military discharged her. Funded by disability payments, all she wanted was peace and quiet, something she found at an Italian resort not overly occupied. She enjoyed her time at the beach until the day she found the first body. At least she wasn’t the one to find the second body. Suddenly, the resort filled with hundreds of guests for an event. She would have to seek solitude at the beach for a few days. She would only have to put up with Thomas, a fellow guest who was turning into a stalker. It was Thomas who found the abandoned beach with the very attractive black sand. The bartender had warned her, but Thomas listened to no one.
Back Alley Sue ***** Nobody believed in the stories or existence of “Back Alley Sue.” That was a story for kids. Dave was an adult homeless person. He hadn’t always been homeless. After his wife’s unfortunate death, Dave’s life had spiraled down to this; a life on the street 50% of the time conscious and 50% of the time in the bottle (still on the street). Every day conscious was spent in seeking safe places to sleep while drunk. Places Sue frequented were not safe. Even in a drunken sleep, Dave remembered his wife but some of the memories were unclear. Sue would appear to help Dave.
Girl on Fire ***** Ruby Miller loved her 1989 Pontiac Bonneville. As readers will see in this story, it was a burning love. My favorite car was a 1957 Pontiac Bonneville. I have a lot of empathy for Ruby but, to offer an insufferable pun, I would be no match for her.
Scuttlebug ***** Frank had given up. He was “broke, fat, single, unemployed, and on the edge of drug addiction.” (pg. 151). Gathering all the money he could, Frank changed course, quit his office job, went back to school to become a psychologist, and cleaned up his life. Now he had to clean up a problem in his house. There were noises in the wall and they sounded serious and threatening. Luckily for Frank, he had a neighbor, Ted, who was a retired super-handyman type. Frank would ask for Ted’s help. It turned out Ted had a similar problem. The problem consumed him.
The Path Through Lower Fell ***** Jim and Amelie were on a country outing. After they trekked through woods, they discovered a large and very lush meadow. In this setting, witnessed by only a few cows, Jim popped the very important question. It was the wrong question.
His Life’s Work ***** Doctor Robert Richardson specialized in house calls to care for geriatric patients. Today would be his last call to examine another doctor, the 97-year-old Doctor Richard Halo. The older doctor was involved in private, probably unsanctioned research. He was just completing his life-long project and he needed only one more part. Doctor Richardson was “it.”
Special Delivery ***** Ben hated to be disturbed in the shower but was happy when he opened the door to an extremely attractive delivery person. The package was heavy and mysterious with special instructions. Melissa agreed to stay while Ben opened the package. You might say she egged him on. Ben found innovative ways to use gardening tools.
It Sees You When You’re Sleeping ***** The title is appropriate for the season. What can be horrible about Christmas? Think fireplaces and Christmas tree decorations.
Sketchbook ***** The Bogeyman is real. Readers will agree that words are powerful. Otherwise, where is the interest in reading? This story adds to that. There is also power in drawing and illustration. This is the last story of the collection and the one I liked best.
In any collection, there are very good stories and some that are less good. For that reason, I give this collection four Amazon stars. There is much more positive than negative with this collection. It might not be the best Christmas read for some, but this is my favorite genre.