Dead Relatives by Lucie McKnight Hardy is a collection of macabre stories that follows Hardy’s successful debut novel Water Shall Refuse Them.
The book of subtle horror tales shows a similar sense of creeping dread as it deals with grief and loss, motherhood and breakdown.
In the title story, a young girl called Iris lives in a big house with her mammy, in what is revealed as a place for young women pregnant outside of marriage to have their children and give them up for adoption.
This uncomfortable set-up is typical of Hardy’s stories, and she expertly drip-feeds the reader worrying information as the plot takes a much darker turn, leaving the reader with chills down their spine.
There is definitely a whisper of Shirley Jackson in the dank, creepy atmosphere that spreads across these stories. Many are set in bleak locations which mirror the psyches of Hardy’s mostly female protagonists.
Her central characters are often struggling – with motherhood, terrible husbands or a loss of sense of self – and trying to find a way through. Sometimes, a kind of bleak revenge is achieved, in the likes of Resting Bitch Face or The Pickling Jar, but Hardy doesn’t shirk from difficult conclusions either.