Randy Baxter, after a troubled childhood including a history of cutting, is now working towards establishing his chef career. Unfortunately, his current job is pretty uninspiring, serving food to residents of the Ashbury Creek Asylum in Western New York state. While working there he hears about Peeler, a mysterious resident who is secured in the basement. He finds out he’s called Peeler because of his obsessive self-mutilation and continuous efforts to remove his own skin. He’s such a danger to himself that he is kept in solitary confinement and has even had his mouth wired shut so he can’t use his teeth.
Randy becomes fascinated and intrigued with this man and the motivation behind his need to self-harm. His curiosity grows as he seeks to find out more about Peeler. Randy gets to meet Peeler with the help of another inmate, and with a promise to bring a razor blade, and then it’s a case of be careful what you wish for.
As you can imagine, with a title and premise like this, when the gore arrives it is wet and excruciating. There is more to the story than you might assume and Peeler’s motivation is remarkable. I saw reflections of Clive Barker and Hellraiser. It all leads to a well wrapped up, satisfying conclusion that will leave a smile on your face. Well, maybe not on most people’s faces, but if you’re reading this then you’ll understand.
Gord Rollo has some really excellent short stories. It’s a medium in which he excels, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few of them. This is very short: a nice appetiser to refresh the palate between novels. You’ll most likely get through it in one sitting. It’s a definite recommendation from me.
Reviewed by Andrew Tadman. @thebooksofblood