Gary Fry's Abolisher Of Roses is the second installement in Spectral's series of limited edition chapbooks. It's been out for a while now - both it and the first book are now sold out - but I've only just gotten around to reading it.
What can I say? What They Hear In The Dark was a fantastic story to kick off with, and I wasn't sure what to expect with Spectral's second offering. Half of me was anticipating more of the same - a good old fashioned ghost story that grows with every reading. It would have been easy to go that route, and I'm glad that there's already some variety in the stories being chosen for the press.
Abolisher of Roses starts out slow, a story about the fraying relationship between a successful businessman and his artist wife. He's playing away, taking his life for granted, and you know it's only a matter of time before he gets his comeuppance. The pace and tension soon mount up, as Peter storms off into the deep, dark woods completely unprepared for what's in store for him there.
The story is a great read, although I felt like it would have been better served with a couple of thousand words more. There's a lot going on here, and it feels like Fry has had to do a hefty amount of trimming to get the story down to the right wordcount. While the story doesn't suffer for it, there's a little bit of reliance on telling rather than showing - especially in the flashback moments, which are crucial to our understanding of what exactly is happening to Peter.
That said, some of the writing is stunning. Fry has the ability to conjure the perfect image when he needs to; "It was chilly late October, the gallery's eaves dripping metronomes of dew," jumped out at me in particular, though there's plenty more where that came from.
This is almost a coming-of-age story, despite the age of the protagonist, and the pay-off is well worth the slow build. I'm definitely looking forward to issue 3.