book review – Spin a Black Yarn by Josh Malerman

Title: Spin a Black Yarn

Author: Josh Malerman

Publisher: Del Rey

Release: August 15, 2023

Synopsis: Josh Malerman brings us a novelette and novella collection of give new stories, each of which is a breed all its own.

The Review: Josh Malerman is pretty hit or miss with me. Over the years, I’ve read a small stack of his books—including Bird Box, Pearl, Malorie, Daphne, and A House at the Bottom of a Lake—but only two of those titles have really left an impression on me. Though A House at a Bottom of the Lake is a novella, Spin a Black Yarn is my first time traversing a collection of shorter stories by Malerman. Here, we have five different stories, none of which were particularly frightening; instead, Malerman hits on the drama of fears, many of which can be tied to claustrophobia, it seems (with the exception of “Egorov”, I could easily argue every story here as a centerpiece of a singular location channeling intense emotion). A brother is tormented by his older sister in “Half the House is Haunted,” in which he is frequently told that—you guessed it—half their childhood home is haunted. You visit these characters at several different points of their life, none of which are all that interesting or exciting. Sadly, this first story in the collection did nothing for me. I think the way it was written is partly to blame; the narrative lacked personality. In “Argyle,” a father on his deathbed admits to have aspired to killing many, many people throughout his lifetime. He is happy to have made it to his death without every actually pulling the trigger, though he goes on in length about the various moments throughout the years he almost committed murder. Though the very ending was suddenly rushed, I really enjoyed the uncomfortable and chilling nature of this story. With “Doug and Judy Buy the House Washer™,” a horrible couple spill their secrets and how they destroyed whoever stood in their way (or simply and inadvertently made them jealous) to get to the top, only to be judged by their new hi-tech cleaning system. This story gave me King vibes in the sense that an inanimate object is actually alive and haunted in some manner. Though I thought the drama was good, I wasn’t a fan of the “twist” to it all. I was left with several questions. Lastly, there’s the Russian documented tale of “Egorov” in which we read a translation of events about a sibling being murdered and the surviving twins seeking justice. This one basically put me to sleep, I’m sorry to say.

The Bottom Line: If you’re a Malerman fan, Spin a Black Yarn provides an array of emotion and substance in its five stories, all of which have a life all their own. Just don’t expect much in the way of fright here—these tales are all very tame, with the exception of the chilling tale of “Argyle.”

Purchase Spin A Black Yarn by Josh Malerman

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Wintry Monsters Press publishes the work of Aiden Merchant and Wesley Winters, as well as the occasional issue of WMP Dark Fiction Magazine, featuring reviews, interviews, promotions, previews, and more.


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