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Like a Chinese Tattoo

Review by: 
Cullen Bunn
Rick R. Reed
J.A. Konrath
Publication Date: 
Dark Arts Books
Bottom Line: 

 “Like a Chinese Tattoo” is an anthology of twelve completely warped and vile short stories that will have readers hoping to take a shower and brush their teeth by the time they close the back cover.  Featuring authors Cullen Bunn, Rick R. Reed, David Thomas Lord and J.A. Konrath, LaCT contains tales touching every facet of evil and violence.  The aptly named Dark Arts Books which published the anthology couldn’t have concocted a better recipe for terror.  It’s like a masterpiece meal of mayhem from an evil Martha Stewart.  Okay, more evil Martha Stewart.
The first batch of sinister shorts is penned by Bunn, who authored the horror comic, “The Damned”.  Readers interested in the North Carolina native’s work should know one thing up front.
Cullen Bunn is one twisted fuck.
Bunn does an amazing job of flushing out the most horrific and demonic entities through the characters’ own emotional perspective.  Each lead character is deeply anchored to his surroundings, and Bunn takes readers into the very lives of these troubled folks.  Once the reader is truly in synch with the characters, the author chooses from his arsenal of gore and terror.  The characters, and the readers right along with them, can only hope to survive.
After putting readers through this grim trip twice, Bunn skips the dramatic stuff and heads straight for the gross-out in “Granny Kisses”.  It’s short enough that a review wouldn’t really do it justice, and the story is really more of an experience than a read.
Selections from Rick R. Reed follow Bunn’s work.  While Reed’s material is a bit more traditional in its subject matter, it is no less frightening.  He has a masterful ability to create a scene as broad as the Chicago skyline or as tight as a coffin.  Known for works such as “Deadly Vision” and “IM”, Reed proves that he doesn’t need the length of a novel to draw readers into the bizarre and seedy sections of the human soul.  His second offering in LaCT, titled “Moving Toward the Light”, weaves a wonderful harmony between violence and compassion.  His third story, “Stung” is more humor than horror, but it does have a few nicely disgusting moments, and displays Reed’s ability to create credibility for his female characters…even the most extreme ones.
The third author in the anthology is David Thomas Lord, who writes with a flourish of imagery.  His use of repetition and perspective provides the reader a very visual feeling of watching his writing.  Rather than enter the head of a character, Lord can keep the readers isolated and guessing throughout the duration of his story.  For instance, “The White Room” is a cinematic build-up of a tale.
“The Great White Ape” shows off Lord’s abilities as a storyteller.  The story (the longest in the collection) is full of lush environments, extremes of emotion, and awe-inspiring adventure.  Again, Lord writes with a style to let the reader observe the happenings in the story, unable to warn or assist its characters.
J.A.Konrath rounds out the roster of talented authors.  Known for his series about Chicago homicide detective Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels (and tons of short stories), Konrath never backs down from a chance to try something different.  For instance, his first short, “The Confession” is told entirely through dialogue. Sick, warped, justifiably in-character dialogue, but dialogue nonetheless.
Konrath brings a versatility to his writing that leads the readers to any place he chooses.  This is usually followed by an “Ewwww!” or laughing so loud you spit coffee on your keyboard…again.  “The Necro File” offers more of the latter, since it features Daniels’ old partner, Harry McGlade.  McGlade has moved on to life as a Private Detective, albeit a horrible one.  Fortunately, he’s as comical as he is clumsy.  He’s sort of half gumshoe, half Strong Bad.  This self-aware little story gives readers just the right dosage of McGlade.
The final story, “Punishment” is a quick and powerful story about a young boy’s courage to overcome his own horrible situation.  Konrath expands the plight of one boy outward to encompass others with a nice finishing twist.
“Like a Chinese Tattoo” is not for the squeamish.  There’s plenty of creepy, crawly dead things (and dead parts, in some cases).  The subject matter may shift from the macabre to the manic, but each story is delivered with gripping detail and devilish glee.  For fans of the sick and twisted, this collection is a winner.
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