This review must be premised by the fact that horror is not top of the list in regard to preferences. The evocation of experiences that are horrific and deeply unsettling are not among the usual choices.
On the back cover, New Zealand great, Alan Duff, makes the comment that “This dude can write.” And can he what! Botur is a superb practitioner with the ability to bring to life these terrifying moments.
The Devil Took Her is the first horror collection of short stories from the highly experienced Christchurch writer, Michael Botur. The tag line on the cover promises “Tales of Horror” and he truly delivers on that promise. The imagery is tough at times, with moments of disgust as much as lingering, visceral explorations of unsettling situations that stay long into the night.
Twelve tales of horror are included in the collection with a whole range of premises presented. From a high school environment, to a horrific story of a woman trapped in a coal cellar.
Younger readers should definitely be primed to some of the language throughout as it can be heavy with expletives and rather grotesque imagery, but there is no denying the quality of the writing that Botur brings to the fore in this collection.
Of particular interest is the story of I came to say sorry which covers multiple countries only to find that the protagonist receives significantly more than he bargained for when meeting up again with a scorned ex lover.
Overall, the skill of the writing is undeniable. The content is heavy and at times hard to keep going because of its brutal, unsettling and overall horrific tendencies, but there is such a pull with the quality of the narrative. It’s a little like a car crash, you don’t want to look - but you just can’t help yourself.
I wish you luck sleeping tonight.
Reviewer: Chris Reed