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

Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste

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Pretty Marys All in a Row

 

by Gwendolyn Kiste

 

(Broken Eye Books, November 2017, 94 pp. pb)

 

Reviewed by Kat Day

This novella by Gwendolyn Kiste is a creepy tale that takes elements from the many “Mary” stories, songs and rhymes that exist—Bloody Mary, Mistress Mary Quite Contrary, Mari Lwyd, Mary Mack and Resurrection Mary—and twists them into something new. In this story all the Marys are ghosts, and it begins with Resurrection Mary (also known as Rhee) haunting a stretch of road. She’s picked up by someone called David who, we learn, has been meeting up with her for over twenty years, during which time he’s aged and is now married with a child. Rhee, of course, hasn’t changed. This story is partly about their unrequited love, but there’s also an intriguing mystery surrounding the Marys—who are they? How have they ended up together? Are they losing their strength and, if so, why? The novella is written in first-person present tense, and there’s a lot of eloquent description which I personally did find a touch heavy after a while. But that said, there are also some really wonderful moments; I loved the idea of “melodies stitched into our blood,” to pick out just one. The story has a good pace and the characters are engaging and well-developed. It’s not very scary, although there’s a cheeky little touch right at the end which produced a little shiver down my spine! If you want something creepy for the season, but don’t like your horror too horrific, this might be just the thing for you.


Kat Day writes the award-winning, non-fiction science blog The Chronicle Flask, which you can find at chronicleflask.com. She has short stories upcoming in Daily Science Fiction and 24 Stories, an anthology to raise money for the survivors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.