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Reviewed by Shrabastee Chakraborty for Readers' Favorite
The Captivating Flames of Madness is a collection of twenty-two short horror stories by Jeff Parsons. The tales are spread throughout an infinite timeline, one that spans from World War II to distant, apocalyptic futures. The stories transport us from an island inhabited by ruthless pirates to modern asylums with cutting-edge technology. Age-old witches, ancient goddesses, powerful aliens, vengeful ghosts, mad scientists, and mindless zombies make regular appearances. Somewhere, a group of hungry children relishes the meat of their conspecifics. A witch keeps malevolent forces imprisoned by her magic. Terrifying hallucinations await unsuspecting victims at the tip of an injection needle. A deadly virus, once exposed, threatens to engulf the entire world. I especially liked the stories Bruja, Edge of Darkness, and There’s No Place Like Hell.
Despite the numerous variations in the premise, Jeff Parsons has masterfully maintained a unifying theme of utter chaos and madness. Watching innocent hearts being brutally sacrificed for some nefarious ploy made me cringe with the unfairness of it all. Again, stories showing wronged victims receiving an opportunity for revenge filled me with a sense of justice. However, even the satanic forces cannot compete with the ultimate evil, the dark madness lurking inside us. The Captivating Flames of Madness does not flinch in showcasing the inner monsters, no matter how gruesome the effects can be. The collection demonstrates how a slight nudge in the wrong direction might tip the balance, destroying all semblance of sanity and slowly sending humankind toward an eternal doom.