First published back in March of 2013, British author Conrad Williams’ story ‘The Fox’ formed the third offering in the ‘This Is Horror’ quarterly chapbook series.  The chapbook was limited to just 300 signed and numbered copies.

DLS Synopsis:
They needed a holiday, but so far that year they hadn’t managed to get away.  And so when autumn half term arrived, the family packed up and went for a ‘staycation’ in an upmarket tent near the New Forest.  Camping wasn’t really his thing, but it started out well, with his wife, Kit, seeming to be enjoying getting back to nature.  Their young daughter Megan was happy with the camping arrangement and baby Lucy was content as always.  Furthermore, the farm where they we camping alongside provided all their basic needs.  Things seemed to be going well.

But then the next day they woke up to a thick blanket of snow.  But there was more than just a blizzard outside of their canvas tent that night.  As Megan soon discovers, the farm’s chicken coop had been torn into and all four chickens were gone.  The idea of having a fox on the prowl outside of their tent wasn’t exactly filling them with holiday joy.

Nevertheless, they continued on with trying to make the most of their snow-covered holiday; going down to the children’s playground with kids.  But their enjoyment is cut short by the discovery of a dead fox, lying on its flank beside the pond.  And when dad turns it over with his boot, he sees that it’s missing an eye.  Something that brings back chilling memories from his past.  Something that can’t possibly have a bearing on what he’s now seeing here before him.  Surely….

DLS Review:
Here we have one of those short and somewhat simple horror story ideas that are designed to chill as much as they are to entertain.  Williams spends much of the length of the chapbook investing time into establishing the few characters involved as well as thoroughly setting the scene and the semi-picturesque countryside-in-the-winter backdrop.

As such, what soon transpires is a carefully-defined atmosphere for the tale to begin to blossom out from, all within a delightfully British setting which can be pictured so easily.  With this now in place, it only takes a couple of small incidents to get the overall feeling of unease creeping into the tale.

With things going a little weird for the family, Williams takes the storyline back in time some twenty-five years, to when our unnamed father character was just a kid.  And it’s within this ‘flashback’ style scene that we see him do something pretty awful without really thinking about it.  Something that he now regrets.  And suddenly the pieces begin to slot into place and we can see where Williams is going with the tale.

But it’s that constant feeling of unease that makes the short story work so well.  Okay, so the actual plot is pretty run-of-the-mill horror story stuff.  But in its telling, Williams spins one hell of a yarn that properly chills your bones.

The ending itself is superb.  The only thing that the short lacks is a better pace and perhaps more gusto to the horror elements.  But as a chilling tale – it’s just a pleasure to read.

The chapbook runs for a total of 29 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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