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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Nightmare #47, August 2016

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Nightmare #47, August 2016

"The Hunt for the Leather Apron" by G. Neri

"Fossil Heart" by Amanda Downum

Reviewed by Nicky Magas

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of London in G. Neri's "The Hunt for the Leather Apron." One of the first victims to be found is Edward John Nichols's mother Mary Ann. While she was somewhat notorious on the streets, and everyone agreed that she would meet a bad end, nonetheless, family is family, and Edward takes it upon himself to discover the truth behind her murder. Rumor and circumstance take him to the door of a shady butcher, and into the hands of a false Jew known as the Leather Apron.

As a piece of historical horror, "The Hunt for the Leather Apron" falls a bit short. Little novelty is added to the wealth of speculation about Jack the Ripper in this story, and the ending hangs like a comma without a finishing clause, leaving the reader neither horrified nor satisfied. As Edward narrates his surface level investigation of London's alleys in a charming cockney accent, he meets a series of inconsequential characters that lead to a watered down climax and no real sense of danger. The most horrifying part of the story is his insistence on reporting in grisly detail his mother's mutilated body, which must lead those readers who are desperate for a deeper meaning to wonder if Mary' Ann's killer wasn't Edward all along.

The memory of Chelsea's death haunts Nan wherever she goes in "Fossil Heart" by Amanda Downum. Now, even though she has Evie at her side in a loving, if not exactly stable relationship, Nan hardly sleeps and thoughts of bringing Chelsea back are all that keeps her from ending her own life. In her dreams shadow beasts wait to tear away pieces of her life while she struggles to go back in time and give Chelsea a second chance at life.

"Fossil Heart" begins in a gripping, terrifying way with a thought provoking question: if you could go back in time, what moment of your life would you change? The setting is vivid and electric and Nan's obsession with Chelsea's death is haunting, however the horror narrative is muddied by Nan's relationship with Evie. What starts as a woman's struggle with her literal and figurative inner demons soon dissolves into a three-way love triangle, with one of the women fifteen-years dead. Even the shadowy creatures that dog Nan as she attempts to reverse a fateful decision in her past lose their mystery and malice to become something more like spirit guides. In the end, the ultimate redeeming sacrifice isn't made by Nan at all, leaving the reader a little cold for her and the absolution that she didn't earn.