**** The Woman In Scarlet
Here, Lee uses classic sword-and-sorcery tropes, but adds a new twist to the genre, in this tragic tale of a Sword’s Man, and the weapon that is also his dream lover. Definitely one that would appeal to fans of the Elric saga.
**** Zelle’s Thursday
A humanoid household robot maid becomes the focal point of a wealthy family’s multiple dysfunctions. Deceptive banal, and a harsh critique of human nature.
**** Unlocking The Golden Cage
Nice style here – it begins with a very 19th-century feel, but as the supernatural elements gradually appear, so do Lee’s signature,lush phrases. Due to the strange requirements of a will determining the disposition of a large inheritance, an unpopular and asocial former governess is thrust into the home of her cousin and co-inheritor: a self-centered young woman who loves to be the center of every party; who behaves with casual cruelty. But there’s a second part to this inheritance: an exotic bracelet which turns out to be cursed.
**** The Eye In The Heart
An overtly feminist and absolutely horrifying tale of a cult religion which has come up with a way, they believe, to ensure that ‘love’ remains in every marriage.
There’s an interesting twist in this tale of a predatory vampire, used to charming his prey – who in turn, becomes uncontrollably obsessed with one that he perceives as a kindred spirit.
Unending youth, beauty, and happiness? What could go wrong? (In this type of story, of course, it’s practically a given that something will.) A handsome young playboy offers a run-down whore more than she’s ever dreamed of, in the form of a potion from a legendary spring. My one quibble with this story? I don’t believe for a second that hundreds of people would ever have turned down the offer…
It may lack some logical sense, but it’s aesthetically and emotionally perfect. A poor mother, struggling to raise her daughter, buys her a gift for the turn-of-the-century – a pair of dolls from a spooky vendor. The girl becomes obsessed with her new toys. This is a Paradis story – one of my favorite settings that Lee’s created. Lovely.
**** Queens In Crimson
This one would’ve fit in very well in Lee’s ‘Fatal Women’ volume. A woman is on a vacation with her wealthy but condescending husband. An unexpected ending.
*****All The Birds Of Hell
A post-apocalyptic Russia with a very Cold War-feel. A bureaucrat is assigned to be the watchman and caretaker of a remote estate, preserved for viewing – the site of a lovers’ suicide. Their bodies, in-situ in cold storage, may be a symbol of the collapse of the nation and a world, of the death of hope. Or are they? This symbol of death is contrasted with the life, energy and fertility of the guard dog and a wild wolf that prowls the grounds. And then things play out in a very surreal way. Very nice.
*** The Persecution Machine
Dedicated to Edward Gorey – but I had to say, ‘hmm… this isn’t really how I perceive Gorey.’ A nephew stalker-ish-ly follows around his reputedly insane uncle, who believes he is being followed by a bizarre and sinister steampunk-style gang on a dangerous machine. Delusion of reality?
**** Antonius Bequeathed
Disturbing and almost-sweet. A young woman is left, in her aunt’s will, an old man. She takes him into her home, where he becomes exceedingly annoying. After many attempts to rid herself of him (with varying degrees of ethical justifiability), she finally succeeds in getting him placed in a home. But once she gets old herself, she looks back and sees things differently.
**** One For Sorrow
A woman is compelled to buy a strange dress from a vintage clothing store, and in dreams, is drawn into not one but two ghostly tragedies – one concerning a Jack-the-Ripper-style serial killer in 1911, and another concerning a medieval nun’s ill-fated lust for her confessor. I’m not sure how well the two (actually three) different stories meshed, but there are still some lovely and scary moments here.