________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 14. . . .December 14, 2012


Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper.

Nancy Kilpatrick, Editor.
Calgary, AB: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2012.
262 pp., trade pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-894063-97-5.

Subject Headings:
Grim Reaper (Symbolic character)-Fiction.
Horror tales, American.
Horror tales, Canadian (English).

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and above.

Review by Ronald Hore.

*** /4



Death waits at the foot of everyone’s bed. With each grasping breath he inches his way closer, trailing a bone finger against blankets of coarse wool or fine silk, until his icy hand rests against a warm cheek. Then there is silence.

Right now, at this bed, he stands on the opposite side of me, at the knee of Krysza, wife and mother of four. He studies the loose weave of the blanket trapping what warmth her body provides. I don’t plan on letting him move closer.

Krysza will require only one leaf. She’s not too badly off, just an illness that settled in her chest and refused to leave. Death was not close enough to warrant more. I muddle the leaf in a bowl with a clean stone. Water boils in a kettle over the fire.

“Her children are old enough, Dominik,” Death says to me. “You could let her go.”

“My hand stops. Heniek, her husband, notices my stillness. “Sir?” (From “Death in the Family”.)


Danse Macabre is a collection of 26 looks at interactions with, and views of, the Angel of Death. Some are an old-fashioned take on Death as an individual, some are far more modern. The volume of 262 pages is comprised of a one page of Acknowledgments, a four page Introduction, plus the 26 short stories and poems. The book closes with a two page Addendum. Each of these sections or tales is headed by a small illustration similar to a mediaeval woodcut of the featured character, Death.

     First is a poem of a modern version of Death wearing a mini skirt, entitled “Danse Macabre.” Next is “The Secret Engravings”, a story set in the 1500s when the plague ruled Europe. “Death in the Family” tells of a man who has made a deal with Death and tries to break it to the advantage of those he loves.

     “Blue Black Night” is a modern story of a dying musician and a fan, with the latter just happening to be Death. In “La Senora Blanca”, readers have the love story of a modern elderly couple and the woman’s interaction with an unsympathetic version of Death. The tale “Totentanz” follows a young engaged couple in Germany, and the woman is having second thoughts after she meets an unusual employer.

      In a more western setting, the story “Out of the Sun” gives readers two characters, Death and the Joker, and their interaction with a group of miners. “Pressed Butterflies” takes readers back to a plague setting and a young girl’s search for angels and her interaction with a mysterious elderly gentleman. In “Matryashka”, readers have the story of a woman trying to bargain with Death for the life of her son.

     “Fingernails” takes the reader to Iceland and tells of a peculiar exhibition and a meeting with a strange woman. The next story, “Ghost Nor Bogle Shalt Thou Fear”, is another modern setting, a hospital where two people take a friend after an accident, and a dangerous mistake one makes. “Death Over Easy” deals with too much cholesterol and a road trip with Death.

     Next is “Mr. Go Away” which is about a young boy who is playing cops and robbers and who meets a man with a black hat. “A Song for Death” takes readers back to a disease-ridden Portugal and a nurse, nicknamed Angel of Death, who meets the real thing. In the story “Therapy”, it takes the reader a while to figure out who, or what, is being analyzed.

     “Me and Lou Hang Out” tells of a mugging that takes a strange twist. In “Elegy for a Crow”, the author presents readers with a feathered version of Death. The story, “The Angel of Death”, has a group of friends on a walk along the seashore that goes awry.

      In “The Physician’s Assistant”, Death visits an operating room. The tale “An Appointment in the Village Bazaar” follows a patrol in Pakistan that meets up with more than the Taliban. “The Exclusive” returns to an old western setting and the story of a journalist who gets in trouble with a cattle baron.

      “For I Must be About My father’s Work” depicts the working day of a mob hit man. In “The Death of Death”, a young woman attempts to track down the grim specter. The tale “Symeon” follows a version of Death that absorbs his victims during love-making. The story of “Old Man With a Blade” has Death meeting someone he does not frighten. “Population Management” takes the reader into the future and a unique method for curbing the population explosion.

     Danse Macabre is a well-written, unusual and original collection, all fixated on Death in his/her different versions and periods in time, from authors famous and otherwise. The subtitle says it all: “Close Encounters With the Reaper.” Avoid it if you are looking for a book filled with sunny tales! Danse Macabre would appeal to the reader of horror stories or one who appreciates something different from the usual run of vampire and zombie anthologies.


Ronald Hore, involved with writer’s groups for several years, dabbles in writing fantasy and science fiction in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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