By Amy Grech (Damnation Books; 2009)

Another rough and uncompromising collection of stories by Amy Grech, following 2006’s APPLE OF MY EYE. Many of the stories from that book recur in this one–including goodies like “Damp Wind and Leaves,” “Rampart,” “Cold Comfort” and “EV 2000”–making this the lesser of the two volumes.

Still, the overall impact of BLANKET OF WHITE’S 14 tales is undeniable. The subject matter ranges from supernatural horror to all-too-natural psychosis to nightmare futures. What all the stories have in common is an intimate and disturbing knowledge of the darker corners of longing and desire. Whereas the contents of APPLE OF MY EYE were quite varied thematically, there’s an overriding theme to these tales, which tend to concern love (of the carnal and parental variety) and devotion pushed to their most twisted extremes. Also, at 132 pages the book (for once) doesn’t overstay its welcome.

I appreciated “Perishables,” a holdover from the previous volume about a man living in the wake of a nuclear war who finds sustenance by cannibalizing the body of his dead wife. The story is short and pointed (and could possibly have been a bit longer), the exposition and flashbacks are kept to a sweet minimum, and it concludes on just the right note.

The title story is also pitch-perfect in its unflinching exploration of a distraught father’s grief at his daughter’s debilitating cerebral palsy, and the “extraordinary gift” he gives her. Another stand-out is “Come and Gone,” a distinctly carnal evocation of longing and memory with generous helpings of sex, masturbation and bloodletting.

“Russian Roulette” is about the violent revenge enacted by a murdered woman’s ex husband; it contains some potent shocks, but the arc is predictable. “Crosshairs” is better, being a grim account of a boy who takes his father’s advice about hunting a little too far. Less nasty is “Ashes to Ashes,” an unexpectedly tender tale of a woman’s attempts at coming to terms with the death of her husband.

Readers wanting sweetness and light would do well to steer clear of this ferocious volume. But for those who (like me) prefer their love stories with sharp edges, BLANKET OF WHITE is ideal.