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  • A.E. Santana

Book Review: 'Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves'

A talkative ghost seeks an audience from beyond the grave. A lonely man, looking for a sense of home, submits to a zombie horde. After a horrific accident, a stranded scientist tries to keep it together. A student abroad delivers more than a mysterious package to a quiet rural town. A semi-professional hitman makes a fatal mistake.

Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves is a short horror story collection by Michael Jess Alexander that features nine eerie and disturbing tales and vignettes. With strangeness and a twist ending as a mark for the collection, the fault of being human is where the real terror lies and what punctuates each story.

In “Werewolf Cemetery,” Grayson has decided to break up with his girlfriend, Dawn, but continues to put it off. He’s not cruel, but he’s certain she’s not the one. While Grayson must contend with a pack of werewolves, it is his lack of courage to be honest that solidifies his fate.

“Space for Amateurs” centers on hired hand Edwin, whose carelessness on the job causes tension between him and his boss, scientist/inventor Professor Noguchi. Although Edwin takes no pride in his work, his ego leads him into a place where there is no coming back.

In the midst of a zombie outbreak, Todd Black succumbs to his isolation after his wife, Kara, leaves to rescue another lonely man—a patient of hers. In “Warm and Tender,” Todd begins to wonder if it’s better to be alive alone or dead together.

Alexander’s stories in Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves are short and biting. They have zip, slashing out at readers with unsettling and unusual situations. However, it is the lingering sting of why and how these characters have ended up in their frightful happenstances that stay with the reader. Whether it is a zombie outbreak, a haunting from beyond the grave, an entanglement with a monster, or a terrible accident, the characters each make decisions that put them at the doorstep of disaster. Their decisions may be thoughtless or selfless, but nonetheless are their own. This is the horror in Alexander’s tales, that humans are fallible—even when being helpful or on ordinary days—and each decision we make brings us closer to our inevitable ends.

For fans of the bizarre and the macabre, Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves offers chilling glimpses into the lives of doomed characters.

Cover courtesy of Michael Jess Alexander / Spook House Press, LLC.


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