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Jeremy Shipp brings you The Atrocities, a haunting gothic fantasy of a young ghost’s education
When Isabella died, her parents were determined to ensure her education wouldn’t suffer.
But Isabella’s parents had not informed her new governess of Isabella’s… condition, and when Ms Valdez arrives at the estate, having forced herself through a surreal nightmare maze of twisted human-like statues, she discovers that there is no girl to tutor.
Or is there…?
Jeremy C. Shipp has a talent that does not come along very often. They are able to build a scene and a story in a way that is a mixture of grotesque and beauty. I was first introduced to their work with “Sheep and Wolves,” a short story collection that I read aloud to my then girlfriend. She loved some of the stories but also made me skip some because they were too much for her. I feel like this is how Shipp’s writing works. They are either hitting you with a beautiful but creepy story or are just so graphic that the squeamish skip parts. Honestly a decade has passed since I last read any of their writing, but once I started “The Atrocities,” I quickly remembered that the things that I loved about their previous work and how I was wrong to not be keeping up with their career.
“The Atrocitites” is a novella, only 100ish pages, about Ms. Valdez, a new governess hired to educate the daughter of the Ever’s family, even though Isabella is dead. Her mother thinks that her daughter haunts the large estate and needs to keep up on her studies. What unfolds with Ms. Valdez accepting the job and starting her life at the Stockton House, a Gothic mansion with gruesome statues and stained glass windows, and the mystery of the family and the house quickly form. There is not any room for Shipp to drag their feet with the movement of the plot, so the pace is swift, and even though the story moves fast, I still feel like we get a good sense of the characters.
I spend a great deal of my time thinking that novellas should be a little longer, to move help build the characters or make the arc feel more natural, but in this case, there are no flaws in the writing. Technically this is one of the best novellas that I have read in a while. The way that they use phrases and character traits to signal things happening in the plot makes the jarring aspects of the writing, the flashbacks and dreamlike state and character definitions, much easier to follow. This could be a complicated and confusing plot with all of the switching and moving and shifting, but the skill with which it progresses is perfect.
I don’t understand why Jeremy C. Shipp is not a more popular author. Everything I have read by them is masterful, and I wonder why there is not more buzz around their work. “The Atrocities” is actually a perfect story to be adapted into a HBO series, and I wish that I had the connections to make this happen. I would be the first in line to watch it every week. And I will be catching up on the rest of the Shipp back catalog.