The Terrifying: Christmas is the time of good cheer and much happiness, right? Well, not if you're an occult detective. “How to Kill Santa” by Joshua Alan Doetsch is a lengthy tale focused around an evil Santa Claus who has been accepting sacrifices. This tale really got under my skin, as it managed to tie in all the legends we associate with Santa in one creepy tale of loss that focuses around a group of children. Accampo's tale, “Krampusnacht,” takes the idea of Saint Nicholas' monster who kidnapped bad children and puts a horrifying, and more adult, spin on it as the beast comes after a couple during the holiday season. And, Christa Nahhas' “Family Drage” is a multigenerational tale that's told from numerous perspectives and features a monster I never would have thought to be terrifying of before, but is forever burned into my mind as a potential danger in the supernatural community.
The Funny: While a dark and dangerous place, Sparrow & Crowe has always been filled with a lot of humor, and, like the Halloween Special, Weird Stories delivers on this aspect as well. “Why the Long Face” by Jay Stringer focuses on a few of the monsters in the world and talks about the problems they face with all these plucky occult detectives getting in their way of having a tasty, mortal snack. Stringer's story vastly entertained me. I'd forgotten how much I missed the more human aspects to the monsters inhabiting the Sparrow & Crowe world. “The Brimstone Chimney” does a wonderful job telling a drunken Crowe story focused around a different interpretation of Santa in a pretty amusing tale, if you don't think about it too hard. While I take issue with the depictions and the language chosen to describe trans* people in her story, Teresa Tulipano's “I Hold the Lock” makes for a great capstone on this anthology, as it tells a humorous tale of Crowe matching wits with a goddess.
And, the Downright Strange: Jeremy Rogers' “Tragedy of the Greatest Dimension” makes for a rough first story focusing around a demonic ritual caught on videotape. Rogers delivers his trademark weirdness, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around this tale which is undoubtedly the most complicated and deserves a second read from me at some point. Paul Montgomery's “What Child Is This?” is a messed up retelling of the nativity story where Crowe plays the part of the Virgin Mary. I applaud Montgomery on coming up with this twisted and fun concept, though part of me wishes it had stayed more humorous and less surreal. And, Caroline Pruett's “Seasonal” is kind of a mixture of all three categories, as it focuses on Holiday Homunculi, because even monsters have sales quotas to meet. Pruett depicts the friendliest Sparrow and Crowe banter of the bunch and provides a nice contrast to all the times they're at one another's throats, but there's darkness here, too, and a lesson about valuing what we have.
Weird Winter Stories is available digitally on Amazon.com for $2.99. All proceeds go to support 826LA, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills and to assist teachers in inspiring their students to write.