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A Sliver of Darkness: Stories


A Sliver of Darkness: Stories

C. J. Tudor spent some of her time during the pandemic putting together a collection of short stories that previously had only existed as unpublished or scrapped ideas for full-length pieces. Tudor is not referred to as the British Stephen King by accident. All of these tales are quite dark. Many feature ironic twists that remind me of King’s short story work, specifically NIGHT SHIFT, with a smattering of “The Twilight Zone” thrown in for good measure.

"Many [of these tales] feature ironic twists that remind me of [Stephen] King’s short story work, specifically NIGHT SHIFT, with a smattering of 'The Twilight Zone' thrown in for good measure."

The first story, “End of the Liner,” was inspired by Tudor’s time on a cruise ship courtesy of a famous “mouse.” Our protagonist is a 75-year-old woman who is about to celebrate 50 years on board the ship. During that time, the passengers have been under the command of “the creators,” which includes having well-known furry characters continue to walk the ship for entertainment purposes. Over the years, many who have grown up on this vessel are now employees themselves. The tale builds on the premise of doom and the unknown that exists on dry land, creating an endless nightmare situation that makes for possibly the most memorable story in the collection.

Tudor introduces each story with her own perspective and background for what is about to transpire. This is quite evident in “The Block,” which is based on the many years she spent growing up in Nottingham. She refers to her job as a dog walker prior to becoming an author and the time that a headless body was discovered on the block where she frequently walked her canine charges. “The Block” imagines a surreal and supernaturally inspired version of this block and the creepy denizens and creatures that may reside there.

Thoughts of the apocalypse served as the impetus for “The Completion,” which uses that term as an almost demonic chant, featuring a legion of black-robed worshippers speaking this word over and over as part of a dark ritual of sorts. “The Lion at the Gate” was birthed by graffiti that Tudor once came upon in Nottingham bearing the head of a lion in multiple colors. Suppose that very same piece of street art could come to life and eat people. Indeed, this is the stuff of nightmares!

The last story that stuck with me is “The Copy Shop.” Tudor mentions seeing a sign in a copy store that promised consumers they “could copy anything.” For Fran, it begins with the vase that her husband broke and was poorly reglued. When her nosy neighbor suggests that she bring the vase to their local copy shop, she figures she has nothing to lose. In a few days, the vase is back with her as if it was brand new. What transpires next is reminiscent of King's PET SEMATARY as her elderly cat visits the shop and has ideas about a husband upgrade.

A SLIVER OF DARKNESS is a creepy good time and far different from C. J. Tudor’s usual bill of fare. It is a bold departure that also shows her full breadth of talent and may suggest that there could be some darker, long-form fiction from her in the future.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 10, 2022

A Sliver of Darkness: Stories
by C. J. Tudor