Michael Marshall Smith, ‘Sad, Dark Thing’ (2011)

High up in the Santa Cruz Mountains lives Miller, who barely knows what to do with himself since his wife and child left; he spends his Saturday afternoons driving around, exploring the local side roads. What he finds on this particular exploration may be just what Miller needs to snap him out of his inertia.

Smith’s story has some of the best writing I’ve yet come across in this anthology: a dry, sparse prose style that perfectly complements both the setting and Miller’s state of mind. And some great turns of phrase, such as this wonderfully creepy image of Miller with too much time on his hands:

Time crawled in an endless parade of minutes from between those cracks, arriving like an army of little black ants, crawling up over his skin, up his face, and into his mouth, ears and eyes. (pp. 340-1)

The true horror of this tale is the horror of emptiness, of an empty existence above all. Smith conveys that horror very well indeed.

Rating: ****

Michael Marshall Smith’s website


  1. Didn’t realise this existed. I love MMS and still think his first full novel “Only Forward” is a masterpiece, and the short story collection “What You Make It” is sheer excellence in surreal, occasionally horrific writing.

    Cheers for pointing me to this DH!

  2. Hi!
    Just wondering where can I read full version of this short story? I have an assignment about this short story and need to present to my classmates later. So I wondering where can I found this and read the story to understand of it and explain this to my friends. Hope you can reply to this comment? Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Matteo — I read this in an anthology called A Book of Shadows, edited by Stephen Jones. But I’m not sure how easy it is to find that book now, or if the story is available anywhere else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 David's Book World

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑