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Dead Relatives

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Iris has never left the big house in the country she shares with Mammy and the servants. When The Ladies arrive, she finds that she must appease her dead relatives. Other stories in this collection explore themes of motherhood and the fragile body, family dynamics and small town tensions, unusual traditions and metamorphosis. Dead Relatives is the highly anticipated, no-hol Iris has never left the big house in the country she shares with Mammy and the servants. When The Ladies arrive, she finds that she must appease her dead relatives. Other stories in this collection explore themes of motherhood and the fragile body, family dynamics and small town tensions, unusual traditions and metamorphosis. Dead Relatives is the highly anticipated, no-holds-barred short story collection from Lucie McKnight Hardy, and readers can expect more of the suspense and trepidation evident in her debut novel, Water Shall Refuse Them. Not for the faint-hearted, Dead Relatives invites you behind closed doors, and will leave you wondering if it’s better that they’re kept shut and firmly locked.


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Iris has never left the big house in the country she shares with Mammy and the servants. When The Ladies arrive, she finds that she must appease her dead relatives. Other stories in this collection explore themes of motherhood and the fragile body, family dynamics and small town tensions, unusual traditions and metamorphosis. Dead Relatives is the highly anticipated, no-hol Iris has never left the big house in the country she shares with Mammy and the servants. When The Ladies arrive, she finds that she must appease her dead relatives. Other stories in this collection explore themes of motherhood and the fragile body, family dynamics and small town tensions, unusual traditions and metamorphosis. Dead Relatives is the highly anticipated, no-holds-barred short story collection from Lucie McKnight Hardy, and readers can expect more of the suspense and trepidation evident in her debut novel, Water Shall Refuse Them. Not for the faint-hearted, Dead Relatives invites you behind closed doors, and will leave you wondering if it’s better that they’re kept shut and firmly locked.

30 review for Dead Relatives

  1. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    Lucie McKnight Hardy’s first novel, the startling summer horror story Water Shall Refuse Them, was one of my favourite books of 2019, and I think I might actually have screeched aloud when I read she had a short story collection coming out. Dead Relatives is a collection of unsettling short stories exploring themes accurately summarised in the blurb as ‘motherhood and the fragile body, family dynamics and small town tensions, unusual traditions and metamorphosis’. It opens with a tour de force. I Lucie McKnight Hardy’s first novel, the startling summer horror story Water Shall Refuse Them, was one of my favourite books of 2019, and I think I might actually have screeched aloud when I read she had a short story collection coming out. Dead Relatives is a collection of unsettling short stories exploring themes accurately summarised in the blurb as ‘motherhood and the fragile body, family dynamics and small town tensions, unusual traditions and metamorphosis’. It opens with a tour de force. In ‘Dead Relatives’ we meet Iris, who talks to her ancestors, has never left the house she shares with her Mammy, and is preparing for the arrival of ‘the Ladies’. The situation is perhaps less bizarre than it initially appears – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t strange and horrifying in other ways. Longer than any of the other stories, ‘Dead Relatives’ is a triumph of voice, Iris’s slyness and angst radiating from the page. Much shorter, yet just as effective, are ‘The Pickling Jar’, a darkly funny story set in a village with a very odd custom, and ‘Cavities’, in which a woman’s determination not to be fooled has deadly consequences. Because I’ve been following the author’s work keenly since her debut, some of the stories were not new to me, for example ‘Jutland’, a disquieting and devastating tale of motherhood; the dark modern folk horror ‘Badgerface’; and ‘Resting Bitch Face’, a devilish unstitching of unhappy marriage. I was particularly happy to revisit ‘The Devil of Timanfaya’, about crumbling family bonds on a Mediterranean holiday, and ‘Wretched’, a prescient dystopian story in which desperate people do terrible things to survive. The more I read, the more I came to feel that Dead Relatives is more like an anthology than a collection, connected thematically more than stylistically. I could see ‘Badgerface’ in Tim Cooke’s landscape punk collection Where We Live, ‘The Pickling Jar’ among the unnerving culinary tales in Anna Vaught’s Famished. The range McKnight Hardy demonstrates here is incredibly impressive; not many collections can segue from historical fiction to contemporary horror to near-future dystopia successfully. What might her second novel be like? I have no idea, but I’m even more excited to read it now. I received an advance review copy of Dead Relatives from the publisher, Dead Ink. TinyLetter | Linktree

  2. 5 out of 5

    Contrary Reader

    This is precisely my shade of eerie, off-key stories with a disturbing underbelly. It has the bite of Mariana Enriquez- in that the stories take on some unflinching themes and aren’t scared to disturb us readers to deliver their message. Robert Aickman sniffs around in that static, out of kilter atmosphere that Lucie conjures so easily. Dead Relatives and The Devil if Timanfaya are my favourites. Cortona, Jutland and The Birds of Nagasaki all coming up trumps. Badgerface is gritty and glorious b This is precisely my shade of eerie, off-key stories with a disturbing underbelly. It has the bite of Mariana Enriquez- in that the stories take on some unflinching themes and aren’t scared to disturb us readers to deliver their message. Robert Aickman sniffs around in that static, out of kilter atmosphere that Lucie conjures so easily. Dead Relatives and The Devil if Timanfaya are my favourites. Cortona, Jutland and The Birds of Nagasaki all coming up trumps. Badgerface is gritty and glorious but lacks the eerie unease of the other stories- so feels like a black sheep. If this is how I get to encounter it though, I will take it. Conclusion: Lucie can write short stories as well as she does dirty old folk horror nasties. Loved it

  3. 5 out of 5

    Priya Sharma

    As a big fan of "Water Shall Refuse Them", I bought this on release. I loved it. The voice and tone of each story is perfect. Womanhood is a recurrent theme- a maternity home for the pregnant and unwed is seen throught the eyes of a very unusual child, a mother with postnatal depression in a stark Scandinavian landscape, a grieving mother under a Tuscan sun, and a bullied girl receives a gift from Japan that her brother covets. As a big fan of "Water Shall Refuse Them", I bought this on release. I loved it. The voice and tone of each story is perfect. Womanhood is a recurrent theme- a maternity home for the pregnant and unwed is seen throught the eyes of a very unusual child, a mother with postnatal depression in a stark Scandinavian landscape, a grieving mother under a Tuscan sun, and a bullied girl receives a gift from Japan that her brother covets.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Shirley Jackson influenced folk horror. High calibre writing, filled with suspense and an atmosphere of imminent menace. The title story is the best of the bunch, though all are equally disquieting. I can’t wait to read more by this talented writer.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Antonella

    Dead Relatives is a beautifully written, unsettling short story collection that crawls and creeps its way into you. There’s horror that hits you over the head, and then there’s Dead Relatives. As you read, you won’t be sure when you started to feel uncomfortable in your own skin, dread sitting heavy on your chest, but you will be sure of its source. Highly, highly recommend.

  6. 5 out of 5

    RaeDawn Drenning

    This author keeps getting better and better. Loved this collection.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    A couple of years ago I read Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy and the coming-of-age, haunting tale was chilling. On October 21st, Lucie McKnight Hardy’s short story collection Dead Relatives will be released. Dead Relatives is the perfect spooky read filled with haunting tales to match the likes of Shirley Jackson and Mariana Enriquez. The eerie nature of the stories digs under your skin and leave you feeling unsettled. The story ‘Dead Relatives’ is the largest in the collection an A couple of years ago I read Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy and the coming-of-age, haunting tale was chilling. On October 21st, Lucie McKnight Hardy’s short story collection Dead Relatives will be released. Dead Relatives is the perfect spooky read filled with haunting tales to match the likes of Shirley Jackson and Mariana Enriquez. The eerie nature of the stories digs under your skin and leave you feeling unsettled. The story ‘Dead Relatives’ is the largest in the collection and reminded me of The Sundial by Shirley Jackson, which is one of my favourite stories. Lucie McKnight Hardy has a talent for writing strange family dynamics and it is a brilliant story to start the collection. Lucie McKnight Hardy is a refreshing and exciting author. She is just as talented as a short story writer as she is a novelist. I am excited to see people adore this collection and I hope Lucie releases more short story collections in the future that are just as creepy as this collection.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gaynor Jones

    A beautifully written, original and genuinely unsettling collection of short stories.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Zoe Radley

    Disturbing, dark, and sinister. This collection of shivery, creepy and haunting stories take you to places and people that are strange, twisted and or are involved in weird and wonderful things. I loved this extraordinary collection and definitely an author to watch… I now need to get hold of the other book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emma Graham

    I loved this collection. Creepy as hell with some haunting descriptions and portrayals of family. Only reason I knocked a star off is because after the powerful first story the rest become a little bit more of the same but the perfect book for Autumn nights.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    It always felt as if something was missing in these stories to make them memorable and stand out, so my actual rating is a bit closer to 2.5 stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dan Howarth

    Beautiful yet repellent. There are so many great stories in here, all of them unsettling and odd in their own way. Highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Siobhain

    The second book from Lucie is a collection of thirteen short stories, these stories are eerie, dark, and a bit ‘on the wonk’ – in the best possible way - every time I thought I had stumbled across my favourite, she threw another belter into the mix.   Dead Relatives, this has all the hallmarks of an incredible gothic folkloric story; an old house, well to do woman living on her own, help called “Clipperty Pete” and “Cook” and a strange small child who has to take care of herself and feeds a tree h The second book from Lucie is a collection of thirteen short stories, these stories are eerie, dark, and a bit ‘on the wonk’ – in the best possible way - every time I thought I had stumbled across my favourite, she threw another belter into the mix.   Dead Relatives, this has all the hallmarks of an incredible gothic folkloric story; an old house, well to do woman living on her own, help called “Clipperty Pete” and “Cook” and a strange small child who has to take care of herself and feeds a tree hole. It has heaps of atmosphere and holds the tension perfectly throughout, I loved it!   ‘The Devil of Timanfaya’ – chilled my soul to it’s core, I was reading it on my commute and my whole body went cold when I reached the ending, in the same way as when I was reading ‘Jutland’ – the last paragraph I could feel my heart race as I felt that mother’s panic. ‘The Pickling Jar’ - is a perfect mix of hilarity and horror, ‘Resting Bitch Face’ – made my whole body tense up while the ending made me feel a little sickly.   ‘Wretched’ and ‘Badgerface’ I found slightly different to the others, these weren’t so much eerie as just plain dark, they had a more modern feel – sharper, more direct than the others,  which may not make sense unless you have read them.   I found the reoccurance of birds in the collection really interesting and I am hoping that at the Blackwells event in a couple of weeks, Lucie may talk a little bit more about this.   Eerie, atmospheric, sharp, cohesive and incredibly addictive, if you haven’t got Dead Relatives on your Autumn reading piles then you really need to get on board, throw in Water Shall Refuse them while you are at it, Lucie is one of the most exciting new writing talents in the UK at the moment and I really looking forward to see where she goes next.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    A masterclass of creepy short stories. Tales that are horrifying and linger in your brain, ones that turn your stomach and ones that unsettle. Too many stand-outs to mention but a collection I'll be returning to again and again. A masterclass of creepy short stories. Tales that are horrifying and linger in your brain, ones that turn your stomach and ones that unsettle. Too many stand-outs to mention but a collection I'll be returning to again and again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    A completely engrossing collection of modern horror stories that will make you wince, cringe, and shudder. Dealing with themes of parenthood and family, politics and health, and isolation and change, the tales are injected with a firm dose of the uncanny/gothic with lashings of body horror, to unravel the personalities of the disturbed and disturbing cast of characters.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    Absolutely loved this dark collection of 13 unsettling and slightly disturbing tales. The perfect Halloween read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    There was a very strange story called Wretched which I fell into rather deeply although it was short, I enjoyed the concept & think this would work as a larger novella. The first & last stories were very good & the others made me uneasy. A great collection to see you through dark evenings.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Frankie

    The Puckering made me outwardly grimace. I felt sick while reading the story and whenever I thought about it afterwards. Good stuff.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cath

    I absolutely loved this book. A real treat for October half term - every story held a different shock, some terrifying, some macabre and some just plain sad. I’m left hungry for more of the underbelly of human nature. I can’t give a favourite but the titular Dead Relatives, the plain terrifying Devil of Timanfaya and the grim possibility of Wretched are all superb. Fully recommend!

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Mulley

    Great book of short horror stories, by a Welsh author. I particularly enjoyed seeing the odd Welsh word squeezed in! This is only the second collection of short stories I've read this year, and is well up there with one of the best books overall. I liked the mix of long and short stories, and the title story was probably my favourite. Well worth a read. Great book of short horror stories, by a Welsh author. I particularly enjoyed seeing the odd Welsh word squeezed in! This is only the second collection of short stories I've read this year, and is well up there with one of the best books overall. I liked the mix of long and short stories, and the title story was probably my favourite. Well worth a read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris Deeks

    Bookended by stories prominently featuring tree holes (and therefore, forever marking tree holes as horrible spaces in my mind), Lucie McKnight Hardy’s collection of short stories is sure to disturb readers who venture into her waters when it is released this October. With her off-kilter storytelling style, McKnight Hardy takes on the fragility of the body, motherhood, unusual family dynamics and unconventional societies/communities with disquieting imagery that lingers in the space left behind Bookended by stories prominently featuring tree holes (and therefore, forever marking tree holes as horrible spaces in my mind), Lucie McKnight Hardy’s collection of short stories is sure to disturb readers who venture into her waters when it is released this October. With her off-kilter storytelling style, McKnight Hardy takes on the fragility of the body, motherhood, unusual family dynamics and unconventional societies/communities with disquieting imagery that lingers in the space left behind after each story. The short story from which this collection takes its name is the longest by a significant margin, taking up almost a third of the book (perhaps the reason that the ‘Dead Relatives’ story is one that particularly stood out for me). By starting this collection off with something a little more expansive, the author sets up the tone for the reader perfectly. A level of uneasiness that is an incredible achievement, and one that she delivers over and over again. It is amazing how Lucie McKnight Hardy manages to deliver gut punch after gut punch in stories that are only a handful of pages long. Sometimes a story will contract and turn on itself in a way that catches you off guard and leaves you disoriented. This is not big horror. This collection takes small things, the odd word or sentence, maybe an idea, just enough to offset your comfort levels. ‘Wretched’ is by far my favourite of this collection. I could have read an entire novels worth of that writing. Alongside that and ‘Dead Relatives’, my favourites were ‘The Birds of Nagasaki’, ‘The Devil of Timanfaya’ and ‘Jutland’. However, these are merely standouts. The entire collection is consistent and cohesive, and will be a great addition to your shelves this autumn. I will be seeking out more writing from Lucie McKnight Hardy, as I’ve heard great things about her novel ‘Water Shall Refuse Them’.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nemesia

    A gothic atmosphere in several cutting short stories, where life is not easy but characters soldier on. And that's why you feel for them even though you wouldn't like to be in their shoes. Strong language and heavy topics. Not for the faint-hearted. A gothic atmosphere in several cutting short stories, where life is not easy but characters soldier on. And that's why you feel for them even though you wouldn't like to be in their shoes. Strong language and heavy topics. Not for the faint-hearted.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Birchon

    A selection of compulsively readable tales, laced with unsettling details, where the true horror only comes into the light in the final page. There are recurring themes - the stories are bookended by mysterious hollows in trees, birds of different sorts make multiple appearances, and there’s enough flesh-eating to turn the most ardent carnivore vegetarian - but without turning the stories monotonous. In fact, the variety is a real strength of the collection. We range from an adoption facility (sp A selection of compulsively readable tales, laced with unsettling details, where the true horror only comes into the light in the final page. There are recurring themes - the stories are bookended by mysterious hollows in trees, birds of different sorts make multiple appearances, and there’s enough flesh-eating to turn the most ardent carnivore vegetarian - but without turning the stories monotonous. In fact, the variety is a real strength of the collection. We range from an adoption facility (spoiler: all’s not what it seems) in the 1950s to a modern-day dystopia to holidays in Italy and Lanzarote. Particular favourites were the dark humour of The Pickling Jar, the menace of Jutland, and the near-cyberpunk of Wretched.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Edward Leach

    Maybe this just wasn’t for me but most stories here felt unfinished and/or underdeveloped, almost as if they were jumping off points for longer stories that never got written. Most of the horror seemed also to stem from writing about “gross” things without any particular tension or disturbing imagery/atmosphere. Birds of Nagasaki and The Wretched were very promising (but suffered from the problems previously mentioned).

  25. 5 out of 5

    podzo

    A chilling collection of short stories, connected by a central theme of Familial dysfunction. The shorter "Flash Fiction" stories are by turns stomach churning and haunting, but it is the longer stories that really hit the mark for me. Dead relatives is book ended by two tremendous stories, perhaps the most "traditional" of the collection; Dead Relatives and The Birds of Nagasaki. A chilling collection of short stories, connected by a central theme of Familial dysfunction. The shorter "Flash Fiction" stories are by turns stomach churning and haunting, but it is the longer stories that really hit the mark for me. Dead relatives is book ended by two tremendous stories, perhaps the most "traditional" of the collection; Dead Relatives and The Birds of Nagasaki.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Virág

    I liked her novel better. I feel like these stories were a bit too short to achieve that unsettling, eerie atmosphere that made the novel so amazing. They depended more on the shock value of a gruesome plot than the quiet and suffocating quality of the setting.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ariel Himboi

    Couldn’t read past the sexist, fatphobic, disgusting narration. Just not worth it or enjoyable.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Danna

    https://booksandbao.com/unsettling-bo... https://booksandbao.com/unsettling-bo...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Going into this collection I had no real idea what to expected. The book is categorised as contemporary fiction/horror so that could mean a lot of things. What I definitely wasn’t expecting was such dark stories! The first story, also the title story, Dead Relatives was probably my favourite. It’s the longest story in the book at around 60 pages, so there’s room for you to get to know the characters. It starts off quite atmospheric, a bit creepy, quite gothic but by the end it just gets dark! Lik Going into this collection I had no real idea what to expected. The book is categorised as contemporary fiction/horror so that could mean a lot of things. What I definitely wasn’t expecting was such dark stories! The first story, also the title story, Dead Relatives was probably my favourite. It’s the longest story in the book at around 60 pages, so there’s room for you to get to know the characters. It starts off quite atmospheric, a bit creepy, quite gothic but by the end it just gets dark! Like I was not fully prepared. Quite a few of the other stories contain this same darkness and there’s a few common themes throughout. The three themes that really stick out to me are death, children and birds. Quite often there’s an overlap with the death and the children. Overall thought there’s quite a mix of stories, some are very atmospheric and others are rather bizarre. Personally I liked the ones that leaned more into the bizarre category. Two stories that really stood out for me, excluding Dead Relatives, were The Pickling Jar and Resting Bitch Face. Overall I had a good time reading this collection, there were a few stories I really enjoyed within it. I’d also be interested in see Lucie McKnight Hardy tackle some longer form stories!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Angela Watt

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