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The Harrow, 2008
Reviewed by Dru Pagliassotti
Collectors of unusual books have probably already discovered Brian J. Showers' tiny little horror-story chapbooks. These carefully constructed, A7-sized limited-edition gems, each with its own ribbon bookmark, present ghost stories told in a traditional Old World manner.
In Quis Separabit, Showers calls on his knowledge of Dublin's neighborhoods and folklore to tell the story of Blackberry Fair, a curious gated jumble of shops that closed at dusk each night out of respect for "The Blackberry Man," a violent apparition known to haunt the premises after sundown.
"At closing time the gates to the stable passage are shut and padlocked, as are the front gates along the footpath. Even the local hooligans with their inbred superstitions know that the back premises are strictly off limits. Anyone who enters the fair after the sun has disappeared from the late afternoon sky does so at their own risk." (p. 7)
The Fair closed down for good in 2002, the narrator tells us--Why? What did the closing have to do with the deaths of three amateur ghosthunters, and what link is there between the Blackberry Man, a statue of the Virgin Mary, and the rats that lurk in the corners of the terrace?
Showers, whose full-sized books include the guidebook Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin and an upcoming collection of ghost stories set in Dublin titled The Bleeding Horse and Other Ghost Stories, captures the sense of a small, insular, secret-keeping community in this short little pseudo-investigative look at the mystery around Blackberry Fair, linking it to one of the most famous of Irish historical mysteries.
Quis Separabit includes six black-and-white illustrations, plus the cover, by Jeffrey C. Roche.
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