Recently, I read Peter Edward’s first book, January. At the time, I was under the impression that it was a collection of short horror stories. It turned out not to be – instead, it was a collection of bizarre and charming vignettes.
I enjoyed January, so I got the second book, Capricorn, under the impression that it was a similar collection of interesting and non-threatening short stories. That also turned out not to be true, and now I feel like a double idiot.
Capricorn actually is a collection of horror stories. Perhaps because I started reading them with a completely inaccurate expectation, I found them to be quite effective.
Each story is, as with January, only a page long and there’s an illustration on every page. That’s means that there isn’t a lot of time for plot development. Instead, each story is a snapshot, a single moment from an implied larger whole. There’s the final moment of a zombie apocalypse, the first hint of the supernatural, a killer’s reflection on their crimes. You know the kind of thing – the central moment of the horror story, standing on its own.
Horror is hard to do at length, and equally hard to do in brief. Hemingway’s famous “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” is often held up as the shortest possible story. The shortest horror story I’m aware of is almost three times that length. In only a few words, it’s difficult to scare or disturb a reader.
These stories manage it well. They’re creepy and unsettling, occasionally with hints of a much greater horror lurking just out of view. The backstories and events up to the point the reader gets to see are implied cleverly – there are no important missing details to nag at you and distract from the key moment.
Just as with January, Edwards has illustrated each vignette with doodles over photographs. However, where January‘s illustrations were wistful and charming, these are darker and more menacing in tone. They put me in mind of a minimalist equivalent of John Kenn’s post-it monsters.
This book is, as I believe I have mentioned, very different to the author’s other work. But it is equally well-made and equally worth reading despite that.