Misery and Other Lines by CC Adams
Sinister Horror Company, ebook, £1.99
Reviewed by Melody Bowles
Misery and Other Lines is a short story collection centred around terrifying happenings on the London Underground at Halloween. Every story begins with costume wearers and pumpkin-carriers mingling with ordinary Londoners to catch the Tube on that single fateful night.
Some of the stories in the book share the same characters and continue or intertwine with one another, making them cohesive and clever. I found it better to read the collection in short bursts than binge it all at once, as the story introductions begin to feel repetitive as you get further in.
Each story title is followed by which stretch of the Tube it’s set on. This may mean little to non-Londoners, but I found it useful as the brightly lit cars of the Circle line feel very different to the juddery, clanky Northern line cars. The descriptions of scrolling platforms and dot matrix boards evoked a familiarity that contrasted well with the creepy goings-on in the stories. The setting details feel meticulously researched, which I think is important when using a location familiar to many.
The cast of characters is diverse and well-drawn, with a good mix of genders, ages, races and nationalities. It feels like the author sat on the Tube and picked the basis of his characters from the passengers around him. My favourite was the up-and-coming saxophone busker, though I also felt a lot of empathy for the man who just wanted to go on his date and the poor, doomed train driver. Less pleasant is a more deranged fellow compelled by a snake (it makes sense in context) to kill his best mate.
My monster highlight was the beggar made of flies. Absolutely grotesque and exactly perfect in its horror. There are plenty of other macabre monstrosities to offer a danger to our Tube travellers. Each story is packed with suspense and never short on the grisly details one would expect from horror. As noted above, the realistic characters and setting ground the horror and lend it an air of could-happen-to-you that chills the bones.
Read this if you love London and creepy, bloodthirsty monsters. I will certainly be on my guard the next time I’m on my way down the station escalators.