Time today for another review.
This is McFarland's second collection of short stories, and, after the first collection, I was looking forward to its release. McFarland is a very good writer. His mastery of the language, his pacing of a story, and the wicked edge to his imagination, set him apart. In this fairly short collection there are some good stories, although nothing quite reaches the level of the very best stories in his previous collection. McFarland is at his best when he lets his evil twin take over the writing. For me, Making Headlines is the standout piece of this collection, a gruesome tale told in an almost matter-of-fact style that makes the story and its central character all the more disturbing. Toxic Love is a well-constructed story, written in three parts from the different perspectives of the main protagonists. I thought only that the ending could have been a little stronger, giving it more impact. Here, McFarland’s restrained style let’s him down a little. The Liar, the title story, was very well written, but the story lacked punch. The reveal at the end, about which of the narrator’s claims was true, was delivered in a beautifully understated fashion. The Savant and Ripples are not bad, but don’t quite reach the same standard. In Ripples there were too many unexplained elements for my satisfaction. The weakest story, in my opinion, was Hospital. This seems to fall into the category of a reminiscence, rather than a story – there were several stories of this kind in the earlier collection which I similarly found less satisfying. I am not sure to what extent this is fiction. It is never quite clear who the narrator, the ‘I’, is in this story. He never refers to himself as the father of the boy; and he never refers to the mother of the boy by name or as his wife. I found this a little odd, and it marred the story for me.
There were rather more typographical/grammatical errors in this collection than I recall from the earlier collection, which suggests to me that McFarlane may have hurried their release just a little. Nevertheless, this is good work from a fine writer. While none of the stories quite rise to the heights of the best in the earlier collection, overall this collection is still worth four stars.