This collection by Indonesian writer Dimas Rio contains five unsettling, suspenseful stories of varying length, ranging from good to excellent, but all show rare intuitive ability and talent.
The title tale occurs in a bar where a man drinks with his best friend and the friend’s wife while they wait for the man’s fiancée to join them. The three become increasingly anxious as the fiancée fails to appear. While readers will feel a certain amount of tension, the conclusion is fairly predictable.
In “At Dusk,” the shortest entry at six pages, a high school journalist gets to interview his favorite author and hears an improbable ghost story with a frightening ending.
“The Wandering” tells of a small-time crook who finds letters from the past and is reminded of his sins. After the antihero realizes whom the letters are from, he suffers poetic justice far out of proportion to his petty crimes.
While the other stories have elements of horror, “The Voice Canal,” a ghost story, has a sweeter aspect, as a doctoral student in Scotland finds he can talk to a dead relative on his cell phone.
The finest by far is the last story, “The Forest Protector,” a horror tale with no trace of the supernatural. Rio shows rare insight into spousal abuse and the satisfaction one woman gets from cutting herself. The point of view alternates between the abused mother and her young son, who finds refuge imagining his comic-book hero, The Forest Protector.
Rio’s writing is lean but expressive and evocative, the perfect combination for tales of suspense. Perhaps because this is his first collection, his style is uneven. With each succeeding story, however, readers know his characters better and care more about them. The conclusions become less predictable, culminating in the final effort, which by itself makes this collection valuable.
Overall, readers will enjoy seeing the author’s artistic progression in Who’s There?
Also available as an ebook.