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Journal Review: Occult Detective Quarterly #5


Title: Occult Detective Quarterly #5

Publisher: Ulthar Press

Contributors: Brandon Barrows, Cliff Biggers, James Bojaciuk, Dave Brzeski, Sandy Chadwin, Bobie Derie, Steve Liskow, Paul St. John Mackintosh, Marion Pittman, Loren Rhoads, Cody Schroeder, Craig Stanton, Megan Taylor, Chelsea Vance, Tim Waggoner, IA Watson, Julian Wildey,

Pages: 165pp

Price: $12.95/$5.95

The end of the world is coming and only a blood sacrifice can save us all. A British Museum is haunted by a lonely God. A Japanese exorcist hunts his quarry through the busy streets of a modern city. In post-war London, a publisher's office is haunted by a despondent spirit. On a dark and stormy night, a man finds the ghost of a long dead woman on the side of the road. In a land of shadows and night, a princess is kidnapped and ordered to solve the murder of a vampire lord -- or else. A monster hunter in Kansas encounters a creature out of Celtic myth. Two young women decide to investigate a long-abandoned Spiritualist church to see if the members really could speak to the dead. A circus medium agrees to help a young girl whose father has been possessed by ... something. A witch in San Francisco is called in when weird events at a science museum lead to an even weirder death. And a private detective in Australia reluctantly teams up with a stranger to solve a missing person case that is more than it appears.    

Occult Detective Quarterly #5 collects a dozen tales of private investigators, psychiatrists, circus mediums, ordinary people (and even a princess) encountering strange cases of possession, ghosts, vampires, demons, and assorted other supernatural phenomena. Sometimes the results are exciting, other times terrifying. And while some stories end in triumph, with the innocent saved and the hero walking off into the sunset, others end in tragedy.

I first encountered ODQ when I stumbled across one of their calls for submissions. It sounded intriguing, so I took a look at the journal as a whole. I liked what I saw, and immediately ordered the two most recent issues, as well as their massive Occult Detective Quarterly Presents.

The fifth issue arrived first, so I started there. Happily, it turned out to be one of the best short story collections I have ever read. There isn't a dud in the lot. Each story (with one sort-of exception) is self-contained, but hints at a much larger universe. I would love to revisit some of these characters in future stories. They also deal with a wide variety of belief systems, mythologies, and supernatural phenomena -- a rare treat considering how many occult detective stories traditionally only rely on a pseudo-Christian mythology. For example, Chadwin's "The Curious Case of the Homesick God" is set at a history museum with a reconstructed Roman temple, while "Shadow's Angle" by Barrows and "Storm Stones" by Schroeder draw on Japanese and Celtic mythology, respectively. "Daddy's Girl" by Wildey features the folk-occult lore of western New York (such as The Long-Lost Friend), while Rhoads' "Something in the Water" features a witch (maybe even Wiccan?) protagonist and an angry nereid.

While there were a number of random typos scattered through the text, these were not enough to detract from my enjoyment of it. The issue was, over all, well-designed and laid out, with easy-to-read type. (Seriously, publishers, I cannot emphasize enough how annoying fancy type is. Just stick with the basics so your readers can enjoy the stories.)

ODQ #5 also includes an essay on author Seabury Quinn, a short article about CrimeFest 2018, and several book reviews, as well as part five in a round-robin serial story. According to Brzeski's opening editorial, "Hastur in Hyades" by Biggers is technically a stand-alone tale, but I will wait to review it until I finally have all of the issues.

Occult Detective Quarterly #5 is a terrific issue. I can't wait to read the previous volumes. Highly recommended to any fans of the genre, as well as fans of In Plain Sight by Dan Willis, Devon Monk's Ordinary Magic series, Lisa Shearin's SPI Files, and Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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