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Flowers of the Sea
Reggie Oliver
Tartarus Press, 388 pages

Flowers of the Sea
Reggie Oliver
Reggie Oliver was educated at Eton and University College, Oxford, and has been a professional playwright, actor, and theatre director since 1975. He has worked in radio, television, films, and theatre, both in the West End and outside London. He has written about ghost stories for such journals as Supernatural Tales, All Hallows, Wormwood for which he writes the regular "Under Review" column, and Weirdly Supernatural. He lives in Suffolk.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Playwright, actor and writer of strange and dark stories, Reggie Oliver has established himself as one of the finest contemporary authors of classy, enticing dark fiction. His latest collection from the British imprint Tartarus Press confirms once again his extraordinary ability to create elegant prose, intriguing plots and insightful characterizations. His stories grip the reader right from the outset and develop in a smooth, engrossing way until the very last sentence.

When reviewing one of his collections, I'm often running out of adjectives to properly describe how excellent are most of the tales included therein. The current volume, assembling thirteen stories and two novellas, is no exception.

"A Child's Problem" is a memorable, modern gothic novella filled with disquieting shadows and disturbing secrets, while the other novella "Lord of the Fleas" is a weird, sinister piece where devil worshipping brings about suffering and death to an innocent young woman.

The mysterious "Striding Edge" revolves around the disappearance of a boy on a mountain cliff, while the riveting "Singing Blood" portrays a serial killer with a peculiar obsession for the noise of spilling blood.

In the superb "Hand to Mouth" the horrible secrets and the depraved activities of a wicked countess living in an isolated castle are masterfully disclosed and in the unsettling "Come Into My Parlour" childhood memories of an obnoxious old aunt and of her disreputable deeds are vividly recalled.

The title story, "Flowers of the Sea" is a very dark tale of desperation, helplessness and loss of identity with a deeply unsettling horrific taste.

"Charm" is a fascinating country drama set in the Cotswolds, while the splendid "Didman's Corner" features a widower visiting his native Suffolk overwhelmed by distressing secrets from the past and unnerving events from the present.

The outstanding "Between Four Yews" (inspired to the famous "A School Story" by M.R. James) is an eerie Chinese box of tales inside the tales, and the uncanny "The Spooks of Shellborough" is a ghostly story of haunting and revenge taking place on a golf course in East Anglia.

To further enhance the allure and the enchantment of Oliver's fiction, each story is accompanied by a beautiful black and white illustration skillfully drawn by the author himself.

Copyright © 2013 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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