Book review: When Things Get Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson edited by Ellen Datlow


A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson is a seminal writer of horror and mystery fiction, whose legacy resonates globally today. Chilling, human, poignant and strange, her stories have inspired a generation of writers and readers.

This anthology, edited by legendary horror editor Ellen Datlow, will bring together today’s leading horror writers to offer their own personal tribute to the work of Shirley Jackson.


I love short horror stories and I love Shirley Jackson, so this anthology instantly called to me. This collection contains 18 short stories by a huge range of brilliant authors, including Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen Graham Jones, Josh Malerman, Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link and many more!⁠

What I love so much about Shirley Jackson’s writing are the elements and themes her stories often focused on – dysfunctional families, discontented women, domestic pain and the dark undercurrent of suburbia – so I went into this one with quite a specific expectation of what this collection would contain. While there were definitely some brilliant stories in here with full Shirley Jackson vibes, I did feel like a lot of these stories didn’t reflect a huge amount of Jackson’s inspiration.⁠

I guess I sometimes hoped to feel more of Jackson’s presence in some of the stories. Perhaps I missed how they were inspired in some cases, a little introduction from each author may have helped me with this. That being said, most of the collection was amazing and the stories were good in their own right. Lots of unsettling and creepy stories to enjoy!⁠

My favourites from the book were:⁠
– For Sale by Owner by Elizabeth Hand⁠
– Quiet Dead Things by Cassandra Khan⁠
– Take Me, I Am Free by Joyce Carol Oates⁠
– A Trip to Paris by Richard Kadrey⁠
– Sooner or Later, Your Wife Will Drive Home by Genevieve Valentine⁠
– Tiptoe by Laird Barron
– Skinder’s Veil by Kelly Link

Overall, a solid collection of horror shorts. I really recommend this collection for horror lovers, you can enjoy it whether you’re a Shirley Jackson fan or not.

Ad-gifted by the publisher Titan Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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