Short Story Review: “Strident Caller” by Laird Barron

3 of 5 stars.

Horror that flirts with the occult if not supernatural, Lovecraftian mythos is bolstered by the unreliable narrator. That which cannot be known or recognized holds an overly generous grip on the psyche. This tale tracks a vagabond full of outlandish stories and questionable life-choices, ie someone not to be taken at face value.

Jesse Craven has wandered from remote Alaska to New York whoring himself out for pocket change and a roof. His latest notch is as the kept gigolo for a 75 y.o. widowed socialite, Deborah. At 8 months, this is his longest gig and he’s feeling antsy. Her moments of delusion don’t help. His rescue pitbull, Artemis, does.

Amid a blackout and storm, Craven secures the house and gathers candles for nyctophobic Deborah. She pulls out an occult musical instrument named Strident Caller and plays. Soon, angry voices emerge from the depth of the house calling for Craven. Even Artemis, whom Craven hand-fed as a pup, growls and bares her teeth at him . . .

This tale appears in Whispers of the Abyss 2: The Horrors That Were and Shall Be edited by Kat Rocha. I received this new anthology directly from 01 Publishing through I’ve previously reviewed Barron’s “(Little Miss) Queen of Darkness”, “Mysterium Tremendum”, and “Proboscis”, all of which flirt with the outre.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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