The All-Soul's Faire

Kristy Tallman’s book is a delirious experience. It is a creation that breaks all the rules of the horror-novel genre, at least what that genre has become in recent decades (with floods of mindlessly gore-drenched books without vision or artistry) — Tallman’s book belongs with those of the classic writers in the field, like Arthur Machen (who, like Tallman, blended a poetic voice with a deep and disturbing look into the dark places of the soul).

On the surface the narrative follows a police investigation of a series of ritualistic murders, but Tallman wisely uses this as a framework only. She is also a gifted poet, and the pages are quickly filled with lush and evocative imagery and experiences, all bringing the reader deeper and deeper into an exploration of rogue, forbidden desire.

 Things are not merely described in this book from the outside, they are felt with a remarkable intensity by the narrator, and through him, by us. The investigation goes off the rails as the detective himself becomes seduced by the powers at play in the hollows and slopes of the Virginia mountains, and the book reads like a feverish dream, jabbing so far into the psyche that like its characters, I was seduced myself, going over with abandon into Tallman’s alluring plunge through visions of all-encompassing desire. You may feel a delicious guilt as you close the book and wish for more, but that is part of the spell here: there are ways to make the darkest passions more than can be resisted, and Kristy Tallman knows them all.

Reviewed by Malcolm Deeley – Gromagon Press

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