Anthologies, short stories, collections are all descriptions that I usually steer clear of. I generally avoid short stories in favor of full novels, I like the chance to settle down with a story. The leisure of getting to know the characters, understanding the setting and time and setting of a story. Barker manages to write a series of unique horror stories. The most riveting of which is the book’s name sake, a story of a fraud who is punished by being inscribed with the confessions of the unsettled dead.
The beauty of the anthology is that it ranges from the genuinely creepy to the farcical. A accountant devoid of vice, seeks his post mortem revenge on smut peddlers. A seemingly oblivious man outwits a demon, his only weapon a facade of stupidity. A talking pig, alas it is not as benevolent as Charlotte’s Wilbur. Faustian bargains, Golems, doppelgangers, demon’s. The variety of the stories did not leave anything to complain about. The farcical stories leave you glued to the page, tongue in cheek, even while chagrinning yourself for the enjoyment.
Barker plays fast and loose with gender roles and sexuality in general. The female protagonists are not limited to the role of victim, nor is the gay character limited to the role of hustler or effeminate she-man. The vices and faults that he gives to the characters are universal, the male characters are as likely to be vain as the female characters are to be distant and stoic. The monsters are often indicative of inhumanity and apathy, the monsters are all to human. Their flaws exploited, needs played upon, wishes granted with horrible consequences. I highly recommend this as a read for anyone looking to read less traditional horror.