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The Juniper Tree and Other Blue Rose Stories
Peter Straub
Subterranean Press, 288 pages

The Juniper Tree and Other Blue Rose Stories
Peter Straub
Peter Straub was born in 1943 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He received a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1965, a M.A. from Columbia University in 1966 and then returned to Wisconsin to spend three years teaching English at his former high school. In 1969, he went to Ireland and to work on a Ph.D. at University College, Dublin. His first novel, Marriages, was published in 1973. His novel, Koko, won a 1989 World Fantasy Award.

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A review by Mario Guslandi

If you're already familiar with Peter Straub's Blue Rose trilogy (Koko, Mystery and The Throat), this collection of four novellas will fill some gaps, disclose and develop previous unknown events in the personal history of some of the major characters. On the other hand, if you never read even one of the three novels, don't worry, because the novellas collected in The Juniper Tree and Other Blue Rose Stories work perfectly well even as stand-alone stories. And what great stories, considering the exceptional talent of Straub as a writer and a storyteller.

In "Blue Rose" Koko's character Harry Beevers is portrayed as a ten-year-old kid who becomes responsible for the death of his younger brother and the dissolution of his family. It's a chilling, terrible masterpiece of horror about brutality, cruelty and emotional aridity, where family relationships are dissected as if they're in a cold autopsy room.

The vivid and disturbing "The Juniper Tree" features a writer reminiscing about his first, sordid sexual experiences which occurred in the last row of the movie theatre of his home town.

A similar, but more complex childhood trauma is painstakingly described in "Bunny is Good Bread," in which a future serial killer is presented as an uncared for and abused child. Particularly well crafted is the character of the child's father, a nut who neglects his son and his job to obsessively and unsuccessfully look single-handedly after his sick wife, instead of putting her under medical care.

"The Ghost Village" is perhaps the weakest of the four stories, attempting, not quite effectively, to blend the horrors of the Vietnam war with the private obsessions of an American soldier eager to go back home to take a personal revenge and with the mystery of the ghosts haunting a now deserted Vietnamese village.

Regardless of personal preferences, the stories assembled in The Juniper Tree and Other Blue Rose Stories are excellent examples of compelling dark fiction created by one of the finest contemporary American writers.

Copyright © 2010 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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