By Amy Grech (Two Backed Books; 2006)

This snappy paperback short story collection is a good sampling of author Amy Grech’s talents.  I say sampling because Grech, according to the author bio, has sold over a hundred stories to various publications (and published a novel called THE ART OF DECEPTION), meaning the thirteen tales collected in this 128-page book are but a microscopic portion of her total output.  Thus I’m reluctant to say how representative they may be (or not), but APPLE OF MY EYE does prove Grech has a mean streak–not to mention an unusually fertile, wide-ranging imagination.

The title story opens the collection in fitting fashion, with a profoundly twisted account of father-daughter love related in a frank, stripped-down manner characteristic of nearly all the stories herein.  The author tends to make her points in short, sharp and shocking fashion, and usually ends her tales with a kicker of a final sentence.

“Prevention”, the second story, is about a son’s nasty revenge on his neglectful mother, enhanced by an even nastier twist ending.  A gruesome vengeance is also visited upon the abusive male lead of “Snubbed”, which I guarantee will have most of you squirming like maggots on a hook.

By this point you might think you’ve got the gist of these stories.  I did, and so was knocked for a loop by “Raven’s Revenge”, a (comparatively) subdued piece graced with a supernatural twist, and “Rampart”, about a man suffering from, and eventually done in by, nightmarish hallucinations.  Then there’s “Damp Wind and Leaves”, a sweet (though resolutely unsentimental) love story set on Halloween night.

But don’t get too comfortable: “Cold Comfort”, one of the meanest tales, falls in this portion of the book.  So does “Initiation Day”, which dispassionately describes how the put upon protagonist, a dorky kid, gets his just desserts in disturbing fashion, topped off by an unforgettable parting line.  Another stand-out is the final piece “EV 2000”, which with its science fictionish setting provides more evidence of Grech’s considerable range.  It’s the most imaginative story of the collection, relating what happens when the titular machine, an “Electronic Vampire”, malfunctions, with deeply horrific results for its users.

Obviously those wanting grossness will be sated by APPLE OF MY EYE, but readers in the mood for solidly written, varied and thoughtful genre fare will also be pleased.  This book packs a punch, and I recommend it.