Print Length: 212 pages
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Publication Date: January 15, 2016
Eidolon Avenue: where the secretly guilty go to die.
One building. Five floors. Five doors per floor. Twenty-five nightmares feeding the hunger lurking between the bricks and waiting beneath the boards.
The First Feast. A retired Chinese assassin in apartment 1A fleeing from a lifetime of bloodshed. A tattooed man in 1B haunted by his most dangerous regret. A frat boy serial killer in 1C facing his past and an elderly married couple stumbling and wounded from fifty years of failed murder/suicide pacts in 1D. And, finally, a young girl in 1E whose quiet thoughts unleash unspeakable horror.
All thrown into their own private hell as every cruel choice, every deadly mistake, every drop of spilled blood is remembered, resurrected and relived to feed the ancient evil that lives on Eidolon Avenue.
I think it’s kind of apropos that my first fiction review of April is Jonathan Winn’s latest release from Crystal Lake Publishing. While it’s not a poetry collection, it does begin with a poem. The prologue in it’s entirety reads:
“There is a place on Eidolon
that stands five stories tall.
Beyond locked doors,
dreams dreamt no more,
the tenants await their fall.
And on this day
which waits five stories tall,
feeds the hunger replete
as the walls inside whisper
That prologue serves two purposes, one of them being that it gives me a good lead in to this review, and the other being that it gives you a good idea of the nightmare you’re about to experience when you enter the ramshackle building that awaits you on EIDOLON AVENUE.
Like so many authors I write about on this blog, Jonathan Winn is new to me. But I’ve heard good things about him from friends and colleagues both, so I was happy to dig into these five viciously dark novellas connected by the hallways of this decrepit building where the damned and the guilty go to perish.
“It’s said all of Shanghai wept when she died.
It’s said over three hundred thousand marched in a funeral procession four miles long that blustery March day in 1935. It’s also said that somewhere in the sobbing throng several women committed suicide. Their silent screen Goddess, Ruan Lingyu, ending her life with a fistful of sleeping pills at the too-young age of twenty-four spawning a grief only death could calm.”
Thus begins the first chapter of the first tale where we meet Lucky, the sole occupant of Apartment 1A. Except she’s not really the sole occupant. Instead, she is surrounded by the spirits of all the people she’s brought death upon in her long life as an assassin. This opening passage shows us very early on that Jonathan Winn has a very unique, very eloquent voice. And he uses that to draw you in and hook you right out the gate.
Winn has a very nonlinear style that takes a bit of effort to follow, particularly in the first story, but his plots are fascinating, well thought out, and terrifying, as in the fast paced and darkly disturbing Apartment 1B, where a young man is forced to face his sins in a most brutal and sometimes gut-wrenching fasion.
I could go on and on synopsizing these stories but the publishers have done a good enough job with that already. So I’m just going to tell you what I think really makes these novellas work and what makes me think Jonathan Winn is a brilliant young author. There are two things that really stand out for me. One is that Winn’s characters are fantastic, so incredibly well developed for such short works, and, love em or hate em, they make you feel something, and they make you interested in their fates. The other thing, and this one is huge for me, is that his endings are fucking perfect. Some of the hardest hitting, wickedly horrific finales I’ve ever read. Because of that, the stories stay with you long after you’ve read the last word.
As I’ve already said, Jonathan Winn is a new discovery for me, but one whose work I’m completely enamored with and I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for us next. Remembering that the apartment building on Eidolon Avenue is five stories tall, there’s the potential for a fuckload of gruesome horror coming out of that building and I’m anxious to see what’s up the next flight of stairs. And the one after that, and… If you haven’t read Jonathan Winn yet, you want to, I promise.