★★★★ Are you the type with a heart drawn around the date of Oct. 31? For the spooky types that love a good scare, A. Martin’s After Midnight is for you. The author serves up over 50 short stories with spine-tingling twists and turns. The wide array of stories and characters offers up plenty of opportunities for the author to show that he knows his stuff—there’s lots of winking references to the master, Stephen King, as well as horror stars like Vincent Price, famous zombies and vampires, and the classic film “Night of the Living Dead.” Martin really hits his stride in his short stories that masterfully mix scary and humorous. Highlights include “Polly,” a tale about the son of Satan that just wants to make it as a writer without dear old dad’s interference; and “Mindful,” where a principal and student bond over their telekinesis, though we find the younger generation is more lighthearted about her skills. Interesting explorations into dark psychological issues also help stories like “Eve of Forgiveness” stand out; that particular tale follows a man that goes crazy and kills his wife, for an online love that it’s not completely clear truly exists.
Oddly enough, the short story format is the both the book’s weakness and strength. Sometimes the stories are a bit too short, and leave the reader wanting much more from the characters. For other stronger stories, the briefness helps the scary or creepy twists land with a punch. To use an obvious analogy, the collection is a like a bag of Halloween candy—there’s some full- size candy bars here, as well as some penny candy. Both are sweet, but we might be heading for the Snickers and Twix sooner.
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