Short Short Review: “The Woman in the Hill,” by Tamsyn Muir

Muir, Tamsyn. “The Woman in the Hall.” Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror, edited by Lynne Jamneck, Dark Regions Press, 2015, pp. 37-45.

Story in spoiler-light nutshell: Early 20th century settler women in New Zealand are disappearing, and the only people who really seem to be looking for them are each other. The land, they find, is old and full of ancient weirdness trying to eat them (and succeeding).

This is among my favorite short stories in this anthology, not only because it’s crams so much atmosphere into a small package, but also because it manages to avoid the usual not mind-numbing bordom of the epistolary style of narrative that is so often used in traditional horror. Muir keeps an authentic edge to the tone without going overboard in verbose, rambling gothiticsm (unlike certain very famous literary figures who were also printed in this anthology *cough* Joyce Carol Oates *cough*).

Even when it’s all told in hindsight, the action of “The Woman in the Hill” is good, the pacing is perfect, and the imagery is everything I want out of an ancient, faceless evil buried in the depths of the earth eager to make innocents disappear. The ending, while I won’t spoil it, manages to be super doomy and chilling in one meager sentence. That’s some sharp writing! In short, this story has everything one needs for good, atmospheric nightmare fuel right before switching off the bedroom light.

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