Author: Brian David Bruns
Narrators: Scott Bennett, Brittany Morgan Williams, Thomas Stone, Gary Furlong
Length: 9 hours 41 minutes
Publisher: Brian David Bruns
Released: Mar. 31, 2017
Genre: Horror; Short Stories
Winner of the International Book Awards for Best Short Story Collection, The Gothic Shift is a beguiling collection of the macabre and supernatural from best-seller Brian David Bruns.
“The Gothic Shift” begins with a man who comes into a restaurant every day to gulp down vast quantities at the shrimp buffet, while his forlorn waitress seems to gain weight on his behalf. Here Bruns achieves a delightful balance of whimsy and the grotesque, with a glimmer of moonstruck romance.
“The Finger People” is a fine study of Civil War squalor and carnage – spotlights the Union attack on the Confederate stronghold Fort Henry. A timid rebel cook discovers something even grislier than the usual horrors of war: ghouls feeding off the dead…and the living.
“The Ghost of Naked Molly” takes us back to old New Orleans on the eve of the Louisiana Purchase, where the ghost of a gorgeous octoroon slave mistress complicates the political schemes of a local grandee by parading around his house in the nude.
“The Penultimate Mr. Nilly” visits the crew of a ship stuck in the Arctic ice in 1859 as they slowly go mad from hunger. The ultimate solution – prompted by a stitched, velveteen toy wolf – gives a completely new twist on survival of the fittest.
Brian David Bruns has adventured in over 60 countries to gather material for his bestselling books and won dozens of literary awards, including the USA REBA Grand Prize. He has been featured on ABC’s 20/20 and was anointed Sir Brian by Prince Michael, Regent of the Principality of Sealand (yes, really).
Sir Brian writes of his global experiences with a self-mocking wit and an astute insight into human behavior. His historical fiction seamlessly blends his love of travel and adventure with the fantastical–a sort of Indiana Jones meets Bram Stoker.
He is devoted to veterans organizations, such as Operation Homefront and Wounded Warriors Project, to which he’s donated thousands of his books.
After several years residing in Dracula’s actual hometown (yes, really), he and his Romanian wife now live in Las Vegas with their two old rescue cats, Julius and Caesar.
He watched them from the bluff – tiny, dark figures on the beach opposite, down below. They crept over the sand and debris like termites on rotten wood. They moved with a purpose, but Frank couldn’t imagine what it was. Perhaps a dozen in number, they moved outside the walls of Fort Henry, so at first he though they were other cooks gathering water. Details were hard to see in the gray predawn, and the mist didn’t help. They wore coats particularly dark and particularly shaggy. That wasn’t too uncommon for the Confederate army. Frank pulled off his own beaten straw hat, noted its appearance, and shrugged. In the beginning, he’d wanted nothing more than to get a gray coat – shaggy or not – but none were available for non-soldiers. Now empty coats were in abundance.
Not a fan of long, drawn out stories, but maybe short and sweet is up your alley? These four stories are short, but they are anything but sweet! Bruns shares four incredibly peculiar and fascinating short tales that will have readers begging for more. While not necessarily seeming to be horror, imagine the Stephen King era of writing and you can definitely apply that type of thinking to these four stories. Now, they would probably be classified more as thrillers or supernatural suspense instead of horror, but that is due to the ever-changing need to be bigger, badder, creepier, and scarier. The four stories that belong to The Gothic Shift are The Ghost of Naked Molly, The Gothic Shift, The Finger People, and The Penultimate Mr. Nilly.
With The Ghost of Naked Molly, the reader is taken into historic New Orleans, where a man finds his residence hiding very big secrets, including the one and only Naked Molly. She comes and goes, leaving breadcrumbs in her wake of why she is still tethered to haunt his mansion. Bringing some powerful men in and out of the mansion and making deals that will set New Orleans in the race to power is how he meets Horace. Horace, an old geyser, becomes obsessed with Molly and attempts to get into Diego’s good graces enough that he may have a shot to bed Molly. Diego, knowing that it can only end up one way, desperately tries to prevent Horace’s death and in turn, prevent his own, but have the cards already been dealt for them both?
Reading The Gothic Shift, you are immediately wondering why this name fits this story. While it is never blatantly obvious, it is clever at best. In this short tale, a young woman waitresses so that she can earn enough and leave the lowly life that she has to become an actress. After noticing a kind gentleman who has made an appearance at her uncle’s restaurant, only to eat an absorbent amount of shrimp, she becomes consumed with this man. Why does he keep coming in and piling up on the shrimp? Physically gaining weight for the first half of the month, she finds him fascinating and repulsive at the same time. How would a man have this much time on his hands to sit there day in and day out, eating so much shrimp. Then, as if by magic, the man starts to lose the weight and the more consumed she is by this man, the more weight she gains. What will happen to her if this man continues to plague her existence? Should they stop selling shrimp so he can’t come in? How will she hide the monstrosity of everything that she has become over just two weeks?
The Finger People (Swamp Hive) was a bit confusing at first, but does actually get a little more horrific than The Ghost of Naked Molly and The Gothic Shift. Frank looks up to only one man, his life saver, as they are led into war, the American Civil War, that is. Jimmy is the man that Frank idolizes and when Jimmy comes to him needing help, Frank is right there offering his assistance. This time, something is different though. These people they face are just soldiers, but the ones that come out after a day of death among the fields, these are different. They may not even be people at all. These people make the war seem easy to fight against. How will Frank get out of this predicament and more importantly, how will he get Jimmy out?
The Penultimate Mr. Nilly is the final short story, taking the reader onto the Blue Caribou and what a ship this one is – that has been cursed, per say. In the mid 1850s, the Arctic is dank, cold, dark, and by far hopeless. The men aboard have to face terrible disease and starvation, but when their captain passes, if just becomes almost unbearable. One man takes it upon himself to lead this crew out of the depths of despair, but little does he know that his madness is just rising to the surface. Something has taken a hold of him and doesn’t seem to want to let go until it has claimed his life and the life of the men he wanted to save. This one will remind readers of The Shining by Stephen King, with the slow descent into madness being prevalent in this story.
Overall, the narrators were successful in filling each story with mirth and suspense. Readers will have four seemingly well-written short stories to choose from for their favorite and all of them have a different twist. This ignites creativity and ensures the reader will not get bored easily. If you are a reader of short stories and supernatural suspense and thriller genres, you may find these to be to your liking. An audiobook was provided to Turning Another Page by Audiobookworm Promotions and in no way affects the honesty of this review. We provide a four-star rating to The Gothic Shift by Brian David Bruns.
Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card
Plugging you into the audio community since 2016.