Sliced and Diced 2 by Joan De La Haye

April 16, 2021

A hunter hunted, the Devil gets married, a typewriter causes havoc for the new inhabitants of an old house, the Devil’s PR agent brings a killer to justice, and a glimpse at the true cost of real estate in Hell – 13 dark and twisted tales by author Joan De La Haye brought together in her second collection.

Once again, all stories will provide thrills and chills – but are best read with the lights on.

From time to time I like to step away from reading novels and indulge in some short fiction. I’m of the opinion that horror is one of the best genres when it comes to this style of writing. It’s all about the short, sharp shocks after all. So when Joan De La Haye’s latest anthology, Sliced and Diced 2, appeared on my horizon I was powerless to resist. Weighing in at a trim ninety-nine pages long this collection includes thirteen tales of darkness, dismemberment and in one memorable instance a very special type of artisanal sausage.

Protector of the Citadel – Imagine you are the baddest of the bad, oozing self-confidence, utterly certain in your violent abilities. You’re in the heat of battle, revelling in all the chaos and blood when you are suddenly presented with a scenario you’ve never experienced before – the prospect of failure from the most unexpected quarter.

Real Estate Hell – I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “there’s a special place in Hell”. Turns out that is entirely true for the worst of humanity. There is indeed a special place and if you’re evil enough you might just end up there.

Breaching the Tower – Confidence and swagger can get you pretty far in life, but how many of us have the ability to blag their way into a high-security vault?

Getting Rid of Charlie – This is my favourite story in the collection. Ironically this is probably because it is the least supernatural in nature. There is nothing so terrifying as a well-organised sociopath especially if she has an equally organised father. The scariest thing is that this tale is just plausible enough to ring true.

The Devil’s Wedding – His Infernal Majesty is going to marry the love of his life. Unsurprisingly the ceremony is not quite as upbeat for all the attendees as it could be.

The Typewriter – Nothing better than a cursed object for absolutely ruining your life. Most of the stories in this collection have a moral woven into their narrative fabric. In this instance – don’t touch things you don’t understand, no matter how enticing they may be.

Family Secret – An unavoidable birthright can be a terrible thing. Burdened with the knowledge of her ancestors, a young woman documents her role as the next generation in her family’s bloody history.

The Reaper’s Rope – A shorter than short story taking place in that split second between life and death. A hanged man has the opportunity to briefly discuss existence and what lies beyond with the grim reaper.

Eat Your Heart Out – Another story that teaches a most valuable lesson. If you treat people badly then there is a decent chance that someone is going to end up treating you badly in return. What goes around comes around.

The Hunt – A seasoned hunter finally meets his match. I’ll be honest, I was cheering for his adversary on this one. Deciding who the bad guy is in any story is always a matter of perspective after all.

The Bat In The Wall – A tale of star-crossed lovers destined to be together forever. Those amongst you who aren’t fans of enclosed spaces may wish to take a short break at this point.

Public Relations – This is the third story featuring Hell in this collection and I’m working on the assumption that they all take place in the same shared version of the underworld. Makes sense. If there are real estate agents and weddings for the damned why not public relations. I’d love to see this trio of tales joined together into something larger. They have a darkly comic tone that I enjoyed.

Nature – Our final tale is the prelude to an apocalypse. We don’t take of our planet so there is little surprise when the planet decides to stop taking care of us. I’m more and more of the opinion we deserve everything we’ve got coming.

I enjoyed all these sinister little vignettes. De La Haye has skill when it comes to setting a scene. Her stories cover the whole gamut of the darkest human emotions, from rage-fuelled vengeance through damned acceptance. If I had one minor criticism, I do think some of the stories could have benefitted from being a little longer. I suppose that is the nature of the short fiction beast though isn’t it. What’s that old adage? Ah yes, always leave your audience hungry for more.

Sliced and Diced 2 is published by the author and is available now.

After much thought, I decided my musical recommendation to accompany Sliced and Diced 2 had to be something that captured the air of disquiet that runs through the entire collection. Swallow by Nathan Halpern seems like an ideal fit. The album contains twenty-three short, slightly surreal soundscapes that perfectly complement the overall feeling of the author’s anthology.

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