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Felicity Dowker
Bread and Circuses
Ticonderoga Publications
US Hardcover and Trade Paperback First Edition
ISBN 978-1-921-857-07-2 (hardcover) and 978-1-921857-08-9 (trade pb)
Publication Date: 06-01-2012
268 pages, $25.00 (tpb)
Date Reviewed: 05-18-2012
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi © 2012

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  General Fiction

Felicity Dowker is considered a rising star in the world of Australian dark fiction, a literary world that unfortunately remains too often "terra incognita" in the rest of the globe. So far I've had just a few opportunities to explore and get acquainted with Aussie horror fiction, and I've never been disappointed.

Felicity Dowker's debut collection is a further occasion to rejoice, because the discovery of an extremely talented new writer is like the birth of a new baby in a family, bringing happiness and hope. Mind you, Dowker is by no means a baby, on the contrary: she's a perfectly well formed writer with a knack for good storytelling, an unusually sharp sensitivity and a remarkable ability to deal with the various shades of dark fantasy.

The collection features fifteen stories, all of them interesting in their own way, with a common ground: quality. But, if all the tales are good, some are either excellent or downright superlative. Among them I'd like to mention those, which in my view of thinking, are the most striking.

The creepy "Jesse's Gift" revolves around the terrifying character of the Ice Cream Man, a not quite human creature endowed with uncanny, frightening powers.

"Us, After the House Came Back" is a story about domestic violence and its unexpected, paranormal solution while "The Bearded Ones" provides an offbeat dark take on the Santa Claus myth, here transformed into a very sinister character.

"To Wish on a Clockwork Heart" is a splendid moral fable mixing a touch of fantasy, a bit of steampunk and a grain of eroticism, while the vivid "Red Delicious" is a vampire story where the undead exhibit quite human vices.

The first of the two outstanding pieces is "The Blind Man," a superb tale of crime and punishment, which, despite its apparent normality, has a very dark, extremely horrific edge.

The other is "After the Jump" an unforgettable, terrific piece where a diver specialized in retrieving the corpses of people committing suicide by jumping from Melbourne West Gate Bridge discovers what lies in the mud of the river bed.

To say that Dowker is an author to watch is an understatement: she's a writer to worship.

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