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Reviewed by Lisa McCombs for Readers' Favorite
Beginning with the collection title, When Dolls Talk, Joel R. Dennstedt sets the stage for his macabre and thoughtfully arranged set of stories. With the preconceived notion of horror in the concept of talking dolls, the author swings from a common childhood notion to one with just as much nostalgic association. “The Town Hag” brings to mind Hansel and Gretel with its promise of a dreadful outcome initiated by poor human choices. And, of course, no collection would be complete without some reference to the great and mighty father of horror: Poe. “The Blue Raven” reminds us of the wonderful fear that very master evokes.
I appreciate that Joel R. Dennstedt takes us to the woods in many of his stories, since that is where most of our childhood nightmares occur. “The Woods Girl”, “Great Uncle Jack”, and “The Hanging Girls” take the reader’s focus to the mysterious secrets of our country’s woodlands. My personal favorite is probably “The Dead Dummy,” in which ventriloquist Wallace and his macabre dummy, Clarence, form a fast and steady friendship.
When Dolls Talk: A Collection of Short Horror Stories by Joel R. Dennstedt is a carefully crafted assortment of delicious gruesomeness, right down to the number (13) of stories told. Dennstedt’s polished use of the English language is reminiscent of the classic writing of Poe. His sentence structure and vivid detail are the perfect combination for short story creation. The author's writing style is wonderful. I really enjoyed these short stories.