I recently read a short story called 'Wrong Exit' by Mary Chapman. It was an enjoyable read, and part of the Sharp Shades series, where short stories are made simpler to encourage readers. However, it was a little lacking in something, and was perhaps over simplified. However, another of her short stories, entitled Hauntings, and part of the regular Shades series, is a more enjoyable and fuller tale.
Perhaps targeted at a slightly teenage audience, it features a slightly creepy tale involving a teenage girl, Rebecca Jane, who has lost her mum and receives an interesting heirloom as a birthday present. As the heirloom (a small, framed photo) coincides with curious goings on and correlations between the present and the past, Rebecca Jane starts to believe that there is something supernatural going on, and that there is closure needed in some way. But can she find out before her strange panic attacks and dreams worsen?
It's quite a scary prospect at times, reading this, and you wonder whether the outcome is going to be rather disastrous. I won't give it away, but I was surprised at the intensity I felt having read such a short story. At only 60 pages or so in length, I hadn't expected to become quite so involved with the tale, but I turned the pages at a quicker rate than usual where short stories are concerned. I'm not sure if this was because I was enjoying the book or because I was so desperate for things to turn out right. Either way, it showed me that my first enjoyable experience of Chapman being a compelling author to read wasn't a flash in the pan: her writing is indeed gripping.
I found that the characterisation could have been improved somewhat by having a slightly longer page count to work with, but as this is a short story, I suppose you have to take what you are given, and with the 60 pages or so, Chapman does what she can with the subject material she has chosen. It was an enjoyable read, and the characters did seem quite real in a way, but Rebecca was definitely given the most focus, with other characters fading into the background.
A very well written tale, Hauntings is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £3.99. It's a fair price for a well written and presented short story. As part of the Shades series, it follows the similar presentation style that makes it so eye catching. Dark and smooth cover, with slightly embossed and reflective elements, as well as an eerie picture on the front make for an apt and appealing cover that reflects what is a well written short story on the inside. Recommended.