Flesh and Coin by Craig Saunders is about a hospice where the dying are being haunted and, in some cases, killed by something called the Shadowman. The main characters include two nurses (one kind and caring, the other sadistic and insensitive), a patient near death who is trying to make sense of the goings-on while barely surviving in a morphine daze, the hospice director, and a police detective. The characters are well-developed for such a short novella and the atmosphere is alive in detail. You experience the sights and smells of elderly patients in their last days. There are a number of interrelated subplots including the origins of the ghostly Shadowman, a patient’s violent and criminal past, an illicit affair between a nasty nurse and the hospice director, and a curse administered by an ancient gypsy woman. The latter was an enjoyable character and her appearance really pushed the story along. While the disparate subplots don’t quite hold together in a seamless narrative, the story was creepy and the plot clever enough to maintain interest – and the pages flowed.
Anthony Hains is a horror & speculative fiction writer.