First published as a stand-alone tale within chapbook format by Ghostwriter Publications back in April of 2009, Guy N Smith’s short story ‘The Doll’ had previously appeared in the British Fantasy Society’s ‘Winter Chills 2’ (1987) periodical, followed by the ‘Cold Cuts’ (1993) anthology, and then again in Guy N Smith’s own ‘Mystery & Horror Shorts: 1st Collection’ (1999) anthology.

DLS Synopsis:
They’d all gone to the fair together. Sue Baton had been surprised her husband, Dave, wanted to go. He wasn’t one for family days out. In fact, he wasn’t one for doing anything with her, or their young daughter, Amy, at all. However, Sue had hoped the day at the fair might be the first steps in finally brining them together as a family.

But the day had been far from a success. It was the Punch & Judy show that did it. There was something very wrong with the characters and the terrible story they told. The violence was horrendous. Dolls heads literally being cracked open, with blood oozing out onto the small stage.

Sue had spirited their daughter away from those ghastly scenes straight away. No way was she going to subject her young mind to those horrors. But Dave had insisted on staying. Captivated by the grotesque scenes of violence enacted by the small dolls.

There was something deeply wrong with it all. Something Sue couldn’t shake from her mind. Something in Dave’s eyes as he continued to watch the show, lapping up the violence with a hunger she’d not seen in him before…

DLS Review:
Essentially here we have here is the original story template for some of the key aspects that appeared in Guy’s novel ‘Manitou Doll’ (1981). Most notably the maniacal Punch & Judy show that descends into a horrific display of gratuitous violence. In fact, the whole idea of a corrupted Punch & Judy is something Smith later returned to again in his novel ‘The Hangman’ (1994).

As with ‘Manitou Doll’ (1981) – we also have the inclusion of a Red Indian fortune-teller carving the wicked dolls from lumps of wood. The connection between the two – the Punch & Judy and the fortune-teller – only vaguely hinted at during this short read. But the understanding is clear – there’s something cursed about those dolls!

Nevertheless, with this short story the main thrust within the tale is the toxic marriage between Sue and Dave, and the eventual corruption of Dave’s mind, escalating his darkest, sickest desires. It’s a plot idea that works well, and something we see appearing time and again in Smith’s novels.

The chapbook is a great short read, crammed with classic Smithisms, and the usual troubling atmosphere borne from the bitterness of the characters’ failing marriage.

The chapbook runs for a total of 12 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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