The third entry into the Candy’s Monsters collection (by Candy Korman), POED toes the line between anthology and a suspense novella, as the narrator, in the persona of the Usher Institute for the Study of Criminal Psychopathology’s director, tells the stories of some of the patients kept within the private institution’s walls, as well as some of the history of the place. Charged with keeping the shameful deeds of some of New York City’s most wealthy and influential families secret, the director is moved by desperation to tell their stories, instead, convinced that one of the families (but which?) is planning to take steps to ensure silence is kept.
Unlike her previous stories, which referenced the style and concepts of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, but took those concepts in completely different directions, POED chooses to exist as a warped reflection Poe’s collected works. In many ways this book is as much a tribute to Poe’s creations as a unique story, echoing names, places, themes, and the odd bit of dialog. Sometimes it’s a little heavy-handed for my tastes, but mostly it moves in a surprisingly natural way.
Comparing POED to The Mary Shelley Game and Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet is tricky, not in the least because I reviewed both of them and have exchanged enough emails and such with Candy at this point that I’m not entirely an unbiased third party. On the one hand, I’m reluctant to say anything that might suggest her previous two books were not good, because they were good, but on the other hand the improvement moving into POED requires acknowledgment, because it’s absolutely better. The fact of the matter is that while Korman’s first two books were very solid entries into the world of self-published novellas, POED could easily hold its own in the realms of traditionally published fiction.
And yes, yes, I know that independently published books can be every bit as wonderful, and polished, and beautiful as the final products of the more traditional industry, but, come on, they’re usually not and we all know it. Let’s not pretend, people.
In its own right, POED is a quick and entertaining read, and a great way to spend a couple of hours, but I felt it was worth noting that it goes a step beyond that. POED is, quite simply, polished. There was a grand total of one error I spotted, which is a new record for an independently published book in my experience, and the book had the feel of one that had been carefully read through by several people. In other words, it reads like something put together by a group of pros, instead of one person on their days off. The pacing and suspense are solid; the story is never rushed and never too slow, and despite the several stories it is always easy to keep track of what is taking place. This is a form of juggling that always looks easy until you actually try to pull it off, and Candy Korman does it flawlessly. Time will tell if she can repeat that success with her upcoming fourth entry into the Candy’s Monsters series.
POED is a technically and thematically excellent piece of fiction, and a worthy homage to its namesake. Korman has a bit of fun with the prose, emulating the brooding poets peculiar style of description. It does not come across as overly purple, which is impressive. You can read more reviews on Good Reads or purchase POED on Amazon.