Ethereal, oppressive, playful, savage, chilling and haunting - Alison Lock's short stories are an unsettling journey into the unknown. Each weaves a magical and mesmerizing spell, each keeps the reader tense and unsure in a world that seems to shimmer between reality and ominous fantasy - some teasing and whimsical with a gleeful, misanthropic Roald Dahl humour, others more sinister and threatening.
This 20-strong collection certainly impresses but it's a far from easy read, and not just because of the undercurrents of darkness. The tales - although lyrical and beguiling - often seem more like poetry than prose, challenging readers to bring their own interpretations and meanings to the sparse, cryptic storytelling. I liked many of the narratives - in particular Dancing With Sylphs, The Inventions of Mr Pitikus, Ashes for Roses and Erthenta but found others less satisfying as I yearned to have more explained to me; to have to do less guesswork. And that's the reason why I've given it 4 stars and not 5.
Above The Parapet won't appeal to everyone, but it's definitely worth checking out as an intriguing showcase for a talented writer with a unique, powerful and fearless voice.