This collection, bringing together the contents of several of Ligotti's short story collections, is a hefty volume that shows what an incredible body of work Ligotti has built up over the years. He is a master of the short form, writing prose that is uncomfortable and subtle, unfolding events that often appear off the page but whose resonances continue to run all through the collection. The opening tale, The Frolic, throws you straight into the deep end of Ligotti's unique form of terror. At first a seemingly harmless tale with a man talking of his work with a confined psychotic, it finishes with a far more personal and chilling flourish. It progresses with an assorted collection of tales that move in the shadows, sometimes bordering on the surreal, that slowly insinuate themselves into the reader. Sometimes there will be a shocking twist, or a satisfying final dénouement, but always it comes back to that sense of growing unease. The final tale The Red Tower is a surreal masterpiece about a strange manufacturing plant and it closes the collection with a perfect, unnerving chill.
Some of the other highlights in the collection are: Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes, a story about a hypnotist and his rather special assistant; The Last Feast of Harlequin, a long story about a man's investigation into a strange festival; Teatro Grottesco, a story about a strange afflication striking down artists. These are merely the tip of the iceburg though, a small part of the multitude of great works in this collection.
Don't let the length put you off, it is a book to be savoured in pieces, to be read when the mood takes you; though more often than not, the act of putting it down after reading a tale is followed by the act of picking it up again.