I love to be scared. Always have. I remember sneaking out into the living room as a 7 year old to watch Tales from the Darkside with the sound off to not wake my parents. I also used the “last channel” button on the remote quite a bit to jump away from Tales from the Crypt to something calmer when it got too crazy. In the Pines is a book that could easily have influenced those shows, with five creepy short tales about lost love, murder, and revenge.

The five stories are all based on murder ballads, some classic and some contemporary. Artist and writer Eric Kriek describes the book as being “inspired by traditional classics such as ‘Pretty Polly’ and ‘Long Black Veil,’ as well as contemporary songs by Steve Earle, Nick Cave, and Gillian Welch…”

For those of you who remember Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, this has that feel to it. Old and well worn tales, told and retold over the years and collected here to be paired with breathtaking artwork.

The art feels lived in, and old as hell–almost like woodcut more than graphic. The style lends itself to the dark nature of these stories almost too well, as a subtle shadow becomes far creepier in Erik’s hands.

These are not too scary though, as there’s a rich vein of melancholy and loss running through all of them. Mistaken identities, revenge, and cold blooded killing are all there in spades, but the sadness of the human characters is very apparent, and perhaps even scarier than the danger.

Make sure to stay past the tales and read the afterword for a quick dive into just what a murder ballad was, and is, and some background on the five tales told herein.

I did seek out the ballads that inspired these tales, and listened to them after reading. Well worth the time if you’ve enjoyed the book.

In The Pines: 5 Murder Ballads Review
Is it good?
Classic and contemporary tales of woe and revenge, illustrated beautifully. A rainy night's perfect read.
Incredible artwork: expressive and deep, and carrying a weight of sadness in horror in every panel
Make sure to track down the songs: the haunting feeling you thought you got from the art is only intensified
Short and sweet, and as ballads go, over too soon and pretty predictable.
8.5
Great