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Rebecca Lloyd
Mercy and Other Stories
Tartarus Press
UK Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-905-78461-5
Publication Date: 03-23-2014> Date Reviewed: 01-03-2015
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2015

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  Mystery  General Fiction

Rebecca Lloyd's collection from Tartarus Press, 'Mercy and Other Stories,' shows that humans need no knives to inflict hurt or pain, and that narratives need not have monsters to show the monstrous emotions of which humanity is so clearly capable.

Our own minds prove to be a perfect breeding ground for the fantastic, a place where cause is irrelevant even though effect is irrevocable. Our knives and monsters are ever ready, and as real as we need them to be.

Lloyd's approach in the stories here involves a careful matching of narrator, prose style and plot. The stories veer in and out of reality and the fantastic with utter aplomb as to any expectations the reader might bring along. After all, every world in our mind is as real as can be. You cannot argue with our emotional perceptions. If we're certain that a legendary monster has stolen our spouse, one need only be reminded that jealousy legendarily has no bounds. This is not to say that Lloyd is shy about writing to a fantastic premise, but rather, that she infuses all the stories here with an all-too-human frailty.

For the most part, you'll find stories on the shorter side in 'Mercy,' and the extremely well-crafted aspect of them rises slowly to our attention. The title story takes a cue from the Fortean Times and just about every newspaper you've ever read to get inside the mind of devotion. "The Stone" invests a most ordinary object with properties that only human emotions could imagine. It's an extremely creepy vision of city life. But Lloyd brings a gentleness to the prose and narrative that's disarming.

Readers who want to sleep the night without disturbance will want to schedule their reading of "The Meat Freezer" for midday. Like many of the stories here, there's a certain opacity at work at first. By the time the story finishes, you might wish it were still in place. It's a gripping reading experience, but definitely not for the faint of heart.

While most of the stories are certainly in the shorter form, Lloyd excels in longer stories as well. "Gone to the Deep," a story of re-location and dislocation and loss, crafts an evocative landscape that births a glorious, dangerous vision. "Maynard's Mountain" is actually pretty funny as well as a gritty, grotty brand of disturbing. "All That Follows" twists up a love story, while "The Reunion" does the same to family.

The stories collected in 'Mercy' are excitingly, invitingly, engagingly human. With each tale, Lloyd offers us the premise that our hearts are a mystery. As her storytellers reveal what lies in their hearts, as their voices seep into our minds, as their emotions become ours, we gradually realize that mirrors indeed show no mercy.

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