Review by Erica Robyn
If you don’t already have your eyes on Janine Pipe, you’ll want to change that as soon as possible.
While Janine has short stories out in a number of collections, she just released her debut collection, Twisted: Tainted Tales, in May of this year. And boy, is that title spot on; this collection is wonderfully twisted! Horror fans of all types need to get their hands on this one.
Set up in such a unique way, the narrator, a woman named Jill, recounts her experience of going through the things of a homeowner that had disappeared before the rest of the house is cleared out. During this task, Jill finds a stack of papers that are stories the previous homeowner had written. For the rest of the novel, Jill introduces each tale to the readers and then allows the reader to experience the tale itself. Breaking the fourth wall, Jill really sets the tone of each story, occasionally giving a bit of a warning about what’s to come for the more intense tales.
The stories that really stood out to me include:
• Sweet Child O Mine
• Lost in the Shadows
• It’s A Sin
• Running with the Devil
• School’s Out Forever…
• Living on a Prayer
• Nobody’s Fool
Do those titles look familiar? Janine has each chapter set up as a track on a mixtape. At the back of the book, there’s a breakdown that maps the tracks with their song titles and artists. This adds such a fun layer to the collection! I had a blast finishing each story and then listening to the song. While the tales aren’t mirrors of the content of the songs, they are very fun pairings that can be tied to the tone of each story.
But the fun elements don’t stop there! Janine also includes an author’s note at the end of each tale. This allows readers to get a glimpse into the creation of the short; we learn things like where the story came from, who the characters were named after, and if there were any nods to other authors.
Janine really flexes her writing skills here as each tale has a totally different vibe from the last. Some stories will hit on some strong heartfelt emotions, some will totally spook you, while others will make you want to shout, “What happens next!?”
As Janine has absolutely mastered the ambiguous ending on some of these shorts, the overall ending follows suit as well. When readers put this one down, their imaginations will run wild! Did Jill find anything else in the house? What happened to the homeowner? Did Jill go on a mission to find out?
I would love to see Jill return again to give us more information. If she doesn’t, I’ll settle with happily wondering what came next.
Go pick up a copy of Twisted: Tainted Tales by Janine Pipe today!