Author: Kelly Robson
Publisher: Tor Books
First Published: January 4, 2017
Genres: Gothic, Horror, Lesbian, Mystery
"A Human Stain" by Kelly Robson is a disturbing horror novelette about a British expatriate at loose ends who is hired by her friend to temporarily care for his young, orphaned nephew in a remote castle-like structure in Germany.
What a wild ride this story was, I read it in a single sitting before bed and I couldn’t put it down. The opening of A Human Stain reminds me of The Turn of the Screw; a young woman is enlisted by a wealthy gentleman to care for his recently orphaned nephew. The young woman goes to a remote castle and finds something strange is going on. It is a beautifully written gothic mystery with a healthy dose of body horror.
“Perhaps the girl was simple. But so lovely. Roses and snow and dark, dark hair. Eighteen or twenty, no more. What a shame about her mouth. Bad teeth perhaps.”
I loved the main character, a brash lesbian with an eye for the beautiful and quiet nursemaid. Everything about the castle and the people that reside there feels off-kilter and strange, the setting elicits a sense of dread the more that the heroine explored it. While the prose was gorgeously written, I’ll admit that I found it confusing at times, but I feel this was intentional as the main character was not sure of what she was really seeing. The vivid imagery came to life and the descriptions of bones, teeth, and other things were truly chilling. The descent to madness among the cast of characters was expertly written in a way that felt natural and I fell in love with the author’s writing style.
I can’t talk about this book more without spoiling the plot, so I’ll just highlight the fact that it is a Tor original, so it is available for free to read online.
- Pros: A clever twist on the gothic horror genre with some spine-chilling gore.
- Cons: The body horror will turn fans of more romantic gothic stories away.
- Warnings: Gore