Crystal Lake Publishing (showing commendable skill at choosing the best of the two options) with Fear the Reaper - a great title for a book, showing contemptuous disregard of the advice offered by The Blue Oyster Cult and bearing a tremendous cover from Ben Baldwin.
The book opens with Hecate, a poem by Adam Lowe which nicely sets the tone for the rest of the collection, one which - on the whole - sticks closely to the theme, a definite plus in my opinion.
The Life of Death by Mark Sheldon is the first story, somewhat fittingly as it tells of the birth of Death (note the capital letter) in a piece that reads like a fable, or a grim fairy tale but which for me could have been trimmed somewhat (with or without a scythe), the novelty aspect running out long before the words actually did.
There are twenty one stories in the book and all are of a high quality making this a substantial - but fulfilling - read and also excellent value for money. The authors all bring their own slant to the mythology of The Grim Reaper and the subject of death as a whole, some more successfully than others. My Dark Minds partner in crime provides a cleverly constructed story in A Life in Five Objects that provides a neat twist in the tail whilst Stumps by Jeff Strand proves that cheating death isn't actually such a good idea after all. It's a gruesome story but its dark, black humour makes it work, something I felt wasn't really the case with Dean M. Drinkel's Der Engel der Liebe which strayed a little too close to gratuitousness for my liking.
Stephen Bacon's Rapid Eye Movement is more a story of love than death but is a beautifully written, highly emotional piece and Gary Fry's The Final Peace focuses on those left behind coping with bereavement, a heartfelt, moving piece of writing.
The highlight of the collection for me was John Kenny's The Final Room in which Sam, a petty criminal on the run from the police stumbles into a shack in a swamp wherein he discovers his destiny... It's a great story with an ending that perfectly encapsulates the theme of the collection.
Fear the Reaper is a very, very good collection of stories with plenty of variation and originality in the different interpretations of the theme. It's the strongest of all of Crystal Lake's releases thus far and one I highly recommend.