All That's Nice

All That's Fair by S.H. Cooper

A maiden looking for love in all the wrong places.

A mother in an endless search for missing children.

A crone whose passing is marked by the tinkling of tiny bells.

All That’s Fair is a collection of twenty-two short horror stories themed around women who are made up of anything but sugar, spice, and everything nice. Be they human, ghost, or something else entirely, one thing holds true for all: These are not the girls you’ll find (or want) next door.

The IndieMuse Review

Indie horror writer S.H. Cooper’s latest collection of twenty-two short stories focus squarely on women. Female protagonists and antagonists who are extraordinary in their own way, whether they are the heroes of their story or, something much more sinister.

The stories within include:

  • A pair of thrill-seekers looking for illicit excitement after breaking into an abandoned boarding school to find there may still be some residents after all
  • A fairy-tale creature with a familial bond to an immigrant household comes with a dire warning
  • An aging grandmother recounting her past encounter with a vengeful spirit
  • A successful businesswoman who does whatever it takes to protect those near to her
  • A mother’s devotion to her son that comes at a terrible cost
  • A middle-child who begins to feel invisible, until her wish quite literally comes true

What struck me most when reading these stories, is how varied the different tones and subjects were, without sacrificing anything in terms of consistency and quality. There were some stories that were classic, good-fun horror stories with a twist in the tale (“The Crone’s Wood”, “The Wishing Sisters”), some which simply aim to scare you (“What Became of Lavinia Cartwright”, “The Shy Lady”) and some that are unflinchingly grim (“And Miyoko Waited”, “She Wasn’t Like Other Mothers”). It came as a welcome surprise then when a story would come along that was something out of the norm. “So Much Filler” tackled some difficult themes in a way that I haven’t seen before. “No Love Lost” is a painfully grounded and downbeat story that puts the spotlight on a real-life horror, while “Auntie Bells” goes in a completely unexpected direction, managing a fine balance between the grotesque and the heart-warming. It was a delight to read a collection that delivered on so many different levels.

The collection’s other big strength is its inventiveness and creativity. Some of the stories may feel familiar, but all have some unique element that sets it apart and makes it memorable in its own right. The creature features “Twelve Hands” and “The O’Sullivan Song” adhere to certain horror tropes, but have such unusual and memorable creatures that the stories worked far better than they had any right to. Some stories (“Vermelda”, “Red String”) have genuinely creepy, or outright frightening imagery that is not easily forgotten.

I’m hard-pressed now, thinking back for this review, to single out one story that felt like a weak link. Not once does Cooper fall into the trap of delivering a short that feels either overly drawn-out, or under-developed. Every story feels complete and satisfying, delivering everything it should without overstaying its welcome.

A consistently surprising and varied collection of horror shorts that switches tone between horrifying and heartbreaking with astounding ease, this killer collection of kick-ass women is a must-read no matter your personal taste in horror fiction.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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