One of the benefits of this year’s Women In Horror Month has been that I’ve gone outside of my comfort zone, reading-wise, and made some great discoveries. That’s not to say that I don’t read women’s work during the other months of the year, because I do. But this year I’ve made it a point to read work by authors I haven’t read before. One of those authors is Mercedes M. Yardley and the first thing I’ve read by her is LITTLE DEAD RED.
“Grim Marie’s mother was dying. She had been dying for several years now, off and on, but this time seemed like it might actually be THE TIME.”
Thus begins chapter one of LITTLE DEAD RED. In this opening chapter Mercedes M. Yardley sets a dark stage for her characters and establishes a brooding mood that persists throughout the story. That opening paragraph tells me a couple things right out the gate. First, this is not a happy story, nor is it likely to get that way. We’ve all lost family members to one thing or another, be it accident, illness, violence, or age, and we can all relate. The passage immediately evokes the mood of the story and holds true to it all the way. The second thing it does is tell me that Mercedes M. Yardley is the real deal. Only a true professional can set a mood and grab a reader that quick. The tension immediately starts to build and the reader wants to know what happens to these characters. We are instantly presented with a question that makes us want to keep going: “Why is she called ‘Grim Marie?'”
LITTLE DEAD RED is a dark retelling of the classic fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. But make no mistake; it isn’t that story in modernized form. That would be dark enough, but Mercedes’ version would horrify a Grimm brother. Yardley masterfully doles out little tidbits of Grim Marie and Aleta’s backstories while simultaneously developing the story, taking us into the black recesses of her protagonist’s mind, and developing her characters with exceptional aptitude.
I’m not going to synopsize this thing. Talking too much about the plot line of this rocket-fueled little shot in the heart would be to risk spoiling the hell out of it and I don’t do that. What I am going to do is take my usual approach and talk a bit about the great strength of this book. The thing that really, really brings this story together and makes it work is Yardley’s remarkable ability to control the mood, to maintain that heavy, brooding darkness throughout using a combination of well-developed characters and poetic language. Grim Marie, the flawed but sympathetic protagonist, is fascinating and her thoughts and observations drive the story and hold the reader captive:
“She liked the way his mouth became a thin line, like they always say in books, because she knew he hated the bitter taste of the words he was saying, too. That he wore a badge and took care to shine it, but sometimes he wanted to throw it against the farthest corner of the room and yell. Scream and scream until the walls fell down around him, like a house unboxing himself, and then he could run into the night and exact his own revenge.”
LITTLE DEAD RED is my favorite short read of the year so far, and I’m not ashamed to confess to having a developing author crush on Mercedes M. Yardley. It’s a rare thing when you discover an author and you know from the very first page that there’s something special there, that this is a story you will finish and love by an author that you’ll read any time she publishes something new. I rank my first reading experience with Mercedes M. Yardley right up there with my first reading of Clive Barker’s BOOKS OF BLOOD or John Foster’s DEAD MEN, and I’m anxious to get on to the next book, and the next, and…
If you haven’t read Mercedes M. Yardley’s work yet, LITTLE DEAD RED is a short little slice of pain and darkness that you won’t soon forget, and it’s a great jumping off point. Read this story and I’m certain that, like me, you’ll be anxious to read all her other work too. Fortunately for us, Crystal Lake Publishing has that covered. They’ll be reissuing her novels, PRETTY LITTLE DEAD GIRLS and APOCALYPTIC MONTESSA AND NUCLEAR LULU: A Tale of Atomic Love, at the beginning of march and they’ve already released her novel, NAMELESS: The Darkness Comes.
LITTLE DEAD RED Synopsis:
The Wolf is roaming the city, and he must be stopped.
Grim Marie knows far too much about the wolves of the world, a world where little girls go missing. After all, she had married one before she/he showed his claws, and what that wolf did to her little girl was unforgiveable. Grim Marie isn’t certain if she can ever forgive herself for putting her Little Aleta in harm’s way.
When Grandmother becomes ill, Aleta offers to take the bus through the concrete forest to Grandmother’s house to bring her some goodies. She knows the way. What could possibly go wrong?
In this modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf takes to the city streets to capture his prey, but the hunter is close behind him. With Grim Marie on the prowl, the hunter becomes the hunted.
Wolves pad through the darkest kind of fairytale: one that can come true.
Get your copy of LITTLE DEAD RED here, and keep an out for those forthcoming books from Crystal Lake Publishing.
About Mercedes M. Yardley: Mercedes M. Yardley is a dark fantasist who wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She writes short stories, nonfiction, novellas, and novels. She is the author of Beautiful Sorrows, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, Nameless, Little Dead Red, and her latest release, Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy. Mercedes lives and works in Sin City, and you can reach her at www.mercedesyardley.com