"MENACE (DarkFuse eBook, 73pp, $2.99), released on the 21st of January 2014, but available for pre-order at $1.99, is easily the most traditional of the three novellas. Pregnant after a fling with an actor, model Jane Marlow goes to an isolated house on an assignment to pose for a book cover, her presence having been specifically requested by the author. While there she has a vision of six children sitting on the grass around her, and when the book cover materialises these same children are in the photo. Jane contacts author Luke Catcher, who tells her that his book will be autobiographical and the six children on the cover are him and his brothers, while Jane is standing in for their mother. There are signs that Jane’s pregnancy is not normal and hints of something very wrong – she has developed a strange facial tic, a streak of grey in her hair that won’t come out and lost her appetite for meat, while the father of her child has gone down with a paralysing illness for which the doctors can provide no explanation. As she learns more of the Catcher family history Jane begins to suspect the terrible truth behind what is happening to her.
To not put too fine a point on it, this is old school horror, very reminiscent of books like Rosemary’s Baby and To the Devil a Daughter in the way it develops, particularly at the end. Fry’s story is more complex though, with plenty of twists and turns, evidence of something unnatural gradually mounting until we, like poor Jane, have no alternative but to accept a supernatural incursion of some kind. The joy of the book is in the eloquent prose and characterisation, the measured way in which Fry piles detail on top of detail so that the text evolves into a master class in how to construct this type of story. It’s not as convoluted and meaning fraught as much of his other work, and I can’t find much to say about it, at least not without giving away vital plot elements, but for pure reading pleasure it can’t be beat.
It’s now ten years or more since Fry’s first published story. He has come a long way in that time, and what’s characterised his work throughout and made it stand apart from most of his contemporaries, are the themes that he tackles, the way in which he uses horror fiction to address and concretise intellectual concepts. He can on occasion be a difficult writer, one who demands much of the reader, but the rewards are more than worth the effort."