Halloween Beyond: Piercing the Veil (Crystal Lake Publishing, 2022)
I can’t think of a more appropriate October Overflow post than a review of a book called Halloween Beyond.
The title of this collection of three thematically-linked novellas refers to a seasonal store that pops up across the country (a la Spirit Halloween). This is no ordinary franchise, though, and the store clerk–a mysterious beauty named Maeve–conducts business with an interest in more than commercial retail. She executes various secret schemes, for purposes that cannot be reduced to the simply sinister (a trite female rewrite of Leland Gaunt Maeve isn’t).
With its Piercing the Veil subtitle, the book forecasts crossings back and forth between the earthly realm and supernatural otherworlds. Yet the book defies expectations thanks to the strikingly varidirectional approaches the three authors take. In the leadoff piece, Lisa Morton’s “The Talking Board,” protagonist Kayla attempts to reach and rescue her sister Hailey who disappeared in the reputedly haunted “Ghost Woods” outside of town the previous Halloween night. Lucy Snyder’s “New Blood” floats the idea of a shady seaside town (which hosts a less-than-innocent Halloween party for local children) and plunges into the deep waters of Lovecraftian horror. Finally, Kate Maruyama’s “A Gentleman’s Suit” presents a yard-haunt prop (a boat-piloting Charon animatronic) that opens an uncanny portal into the afterlife.
Perhaps because of the gender of the respective contributors, there’s a certain commonality to the viewpoint characters of each novella (although Maruyama’s employment of a nonbinary narrator whose identity is integral to the plot provides a welcome variation). The most important characteristics the selections share, though, are richly atmospheric prose and intriguing plots. Fans of Al Sarrantonio’s Orangefield Cycle are sure to relish this book’s combination of the autumnal and the mythic.
Starting with a terrific premise and then impressively developing it, Halloween Beyond makes for a quite satisfying holiday treat. There also seems to be a lot more space left on the curious shop’s shelves for other authors to stock with darkly imaginative items, so I’m hoping that Halloween Beyond pops up again next October with further linked-novella volumes or even an entire theme anthology.