When Dolls Talk

When Dolls Talk

A Collection of Short Horror Stories

Fiction - Horror
142 Pages
Reviewed on 02/20/2017
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

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.

Jack Magnus

When Dolls Talk: A Collection of Short Horror Stories is a macabre selection of tales written by Joel R. Dennstedt. Unless you're a young child or a collector of dolls, most people are pretty spooked out by those little plastic creatures. Some of them are, admittedly, finely dressed in ruffles, bows and even pearls, as in Dennstedt's title work, When Dolls Talk, but they all seem to be poised somewhere between this world and somewhere very strange indeed. Rebecca, the little almost-nine-year-old whose universe is abruptly turned on its axis just a few days before her birthday, could tell you a thing or two about dolls -- and her newly found, if somewhat belated, respect for them. In The Dead Dummy, Walter's life-long friend, a living ventriloquist’s doll named Clarence, means all the world to him. The grotesquely ill-proportioned dummy, who comes up with all the edgy comments that make their act work so well, is also his best friend and boon companion, someone to share strong coffee laced with brandy after an evening's performance. But when Clarence begins to feel poorly, there's no one to help the friends as they come to terms with their impending loss.

Joel R. Dennstedt's dark short story collection, When Dolls Talk: A Collection of Short Horror Stories, is not for the faint of heart, though anyone who reads and relishes horror tales will not fit that description. Those who do find dark corners and eerie whispers emanating from shadowy attics irresistible will have a field day reading this macabre, and at times, murky set of tales. Hidden in Dennstedt’s world of horror, however, are some real gems that shine out brightly, such as The Old Place which is a love story told by a faithful hound left years ago by the child he protected with his life, and The Blue Raven, a sly homage to Edgar Allan Poe. Dennstedt's collection is well-written, and his tales are atmospheric, moody and unsettling -- in effect, an eminently suitable reading selection for those who like to indulge their cravings for things that go bump in the night. When Dolls Talk: A Collection of Short Horror Stories is highly recommended.

Scila Colombo

Original and very intriguing, When Dolls Talk is a collection of short stories like you have never read before. Joel R. Dennstedt mixes a unique sense of horror with a sharp insight, delivering a brilliant collection of fast paced, unsettling and highly disturbing stories. When Dolls Talk is not the usual anthology of mildly scary stories, but something more sophisticated; each and every story hits your nerves and gives you the chills. Page after page, you clearly taste the perfect blend of dark imagination and reality, so well written it almost sounds like poetry.

"The Town Hag", "The Watching Man", "The Woods Girl", "Our Little Town" and "The Hanged Man" are some of the best stories from the entire collection: Joel R. Dennstedt at his best. A keen eye for details, a precise and elegant vocabulary -never vulgar - take the reader through a crescendo of very disturbing feelings right to the end of the story, where everything but the subtle sense of fear and angst disappear. Being able to catch the reader's attention, while carefully but inexorably taking him into dark and unsettling territories inhabited by hidden fears is a rare yet extremely precious quality for any horror fiction writer, and Joel T. Dennstedt clearly owns it. A fine connoisseur of human nature, he plays with a full plethora of emotions: fear, anguish, angst and anxiety. Reading When Dolls Talk, you will appreciate the fast pace, the clean language and the uniqueness of every story; Joel R. Dennstedt is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Faridah Nassozi

When Dolls Talk by Joel R. Dennstedt is a collection of short stories, each with a different plot, that will captivate and terrify you. From the story of an eight-year-old girl with a mysterious doll in the corner of her new bedroom, and the doll's vengeance, to an old man's narration of his encounters with the 'watching man' who visited him every twelve years for the past 84 years, and many more terrifying stories in between, you will surely find all types of horror stories in this amazing collection.

In When Dolls Talk, Joel R. Dennstedt delivers a collection of short stories unlike any other. On so few pages he captures details and raw emotions, making the stories come alive. He delivers on all fronts without the need to go overboard, keeping the reading experience intriguing and thrilling. It is simply amazing how he manages to capture the moments with so few and simple words. The style of narration gradually builds the anticipation and dread in the reader, enabling you to connect with the characters' emotions as if they were your own. The stories are very short and yet each feels complete and has everything you would expect from an incredible horror story. Every single story is unique both in plot and setting, but the one thing they all have in common is how they are completely and terrifyingly believable, each concluding with a surprising and yet truly fitting climax and conclusion. In every case, the end is upon you before you know it, but in a very satisfying way.

Kim Anisi

When dolls have their own thoughts and little girls develop violent ideas, then you find yourself in the middle of a story in the collection When Dolls Talk by Joel R. Dennstedt. This collection offers a few short horror stories that all stand on their own (i.e. you can read them in any order you like), and have some unique plots for readers who love a little horror. I personally found that the horror in this stories was the mild kind of horror, often more psycho than on the gore side. The main appeal was the way the stories were written. You can clearly see that the author has put some thought into how the words and actions were arranged. Just from the literary side of things, it was a joy to read.

When Dolls Talk by Joel R. Dennstedt definitely makes readers go, "Wait. What?" at the end of some stories. That is what good horror stories do. They usually have surprising endings that make you think, wonder, or maybe even swear a little (especially when you really aren't sure what you've just read and feel like the author is poking fun at you). I enjoyed being surprised, and, yes, a little annoyed too during some stories. But a horror collection wouldn't really be worthwhile if it didn't bring out a variety of emotions in the reader. The stories in this collection are all worth reading, varied in their topics, and incredibly entertaining. They are ideal for breaks in between longer books, or when you just do not have the time for a novel.