Lee Murray presents a horrific and darkly hilarious take on meeting the in-laws with her short story “Phoenix Claws,” the fourth story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. The visceral descriptions of food inspired hunger and revulsion from sentence to sentence… and sometimes simultaneously. I will never look at chicken feet for sale the same way. I shared this story with my own chickens, and they all thought it was one of the more horrifying things they’ve read.
Beyond her imaginative treatment of food, however, Murray delves deep into the conflicted family dynamics that exist when bringing a potential mate home to meet the parents. A stressful event at the best of times, Murray brings forth the intricate dance between duty and desire with skill and empathy that doesn’t hold back. Her heroine is candid and believable as she balances that ultra fine line.
Murray brings this world of modern Chinese dining to vivid life as she captures every nuance from odors and sounds to the frenetic bustle. Her ability to paint an atmosphere goes beyond the colorful Chinese restaurant, however. Every scene is wonderfully fleshed out—to her credit, sometimes nauseatingly so. She has a knack from slipping the comical in the midst of the horrific, but my favorite aspect of the story was how well Murray captures the nuances of a Chinese family from a candid, insider point of view.
When two worlds collide there is sure to be collateral damage. It is difficult not to bite off more than we can swallow.
“Phoenix Claws” by Lee Murray is the fourth story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, an anthology of Asian women in horror. Three-time international Bram Stoker Award-finalist, Lee Murray is New Zealand’s most awarded speculative fiction writer and editor (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows).
She is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and short fiction including the double award-winning Taine McKenna speculative thriller series (Severed Press), and supernatural crime-noir series Path of Ra (Raw Dog Screaming Press) which she co-writes with Wellington author, Dan Rabarts. She is proud to have edited sixteen anthologies of dark fiction. Lee lives with her family in the sunny Bay of Plenty where she conjures up stories for readers of all ages from her office overlooking a cow paddock.
Find out about the other stories
in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (and more)
here under the #amreading tag.
Black Cranes: A Review in Verse by Renata Pavrey | Tomes and Tales
Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes | Horror Writers
Black Cranes Release Day Panel | Omnium Gatherum
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray I | Gingernuts of Horror
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray II | Gingernuts of Horror
Meet Black Crane Lee Murray | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Grace Chan | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn | AngelaYurikoSmith.com