The twelve stories comprising Plots and Misadventures span nearly twenty years of Gallagher’s career and encompass horror, dark fantasy, noirish suspense, and dark science fiction. The newer material generally stuck me as among the strongest, a circumstance I’m always happy to report. The collection opens audaciously: the story “Little Dead Girl Singing,” which certainly sounds like a give-the-game-away sort of title, starts with the claim, “Here’s one you won’t have heard before” — and then delivers, with a brief, unsettling, but hard-to-pin down narrative. It’s indicative of the book as a whole: describing Gallagher’s plots in bare-bones form wouldn’t make them sound very original, but by addressing them with subtlety, careful prose, and sly knack for gradual disclosure to the reader, Gallagher brings some worn plot devices to vivid life. (The title to the contrary, plot isn’t his strong suit anyway — several of these stories have inconsistencies or inadequately supported elements when examined after the fact — but I was mostly too caught up to care.) My personal favorite was “The Plot,” a richly atmospheric story of an unhinged young woman who wants her unbaptized child buried in consecrated ground, and the clergyman who wrestles with her request and his conscience. “Doctor Hood,” a story of a serious experimental researcher who begins to believe his wife’s spirit is haunting him, was also particularly strong.
(I owe Joe Hill’s short story “Best New Horror” for obliquely introducing me to Gallagher by mentioning him in the same sentence as Kelly Link.)
needs more demons? no.