A collection of seven short stories, connected by the theme of untimely death, Fran Lewis’s Faces Behind the Stones combines a genuine concern for real-world issues with the shocks and twisted connections of horror and ghost stories. The combination can be a little uncomfortable at times, as when one story ends by teaching the warning signs for suicide—wise lessons, but oddly placed—and another asks readers to consider the real-world dangers of abuse . According to the author, these tales are all based on real life, and it’s easy to recognize newspaper accounts that would herald many of them. Using voices from the grave to show the victim’s thoughts is certainly an interesting technique. Sometimes strident, sometimes pathetic, the voices do indeed demand to be heard. But the pairing of familiar cruelties with unlikely coincidence and confusing mystery, can leave the reader unnerved in the manner of classic horror, but also a little unsure what to take seriously.
The stories are short and the lessons wise in this collection. Occasional typos and odd word choices can be justified by the tone of character and voice. Final questions linger in the mind lending a completeness to this collection—murder, suicide, innocent victim, killer, redeemed or broken?
Disclosure: I was lucky enough to win a copy of this short story collection from the author.