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Keep Me Company

Nothing but Blackened Teeth

By Cassandra Khaw 

12 Mar, 2021

Doing the WFC's Homework


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Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a standalone ghost story.

Phillip has money, lots and lots of money. When he decides to treat his friends to a lavish getaway, he doesn’t just book them into a five-star holiday resort. Instead, he pulls strings to get access to Heian-era mansion. 

Because Phillip has more money than he knows what to do with, the mansion he selects is, of course, haunted. Because what could go wrong with a quiet weekend out in the woods in a haunted mansion?

Calling Cat, Phillip, Lin, Nadia, and Faiz friends might be over-egging the pudding somewhat. Despite (or perhaps due to) spending years hopping in and out of each other’s beds to accompaniment of romantic drama, it’s not especially clear if the gang still likes each other all that much. In the case of newly engaged Nadia and Faiz, presumably they love each other to the extent that rich people can be said to experience human emotion, but otherwise there is a tremendous amount of baggage cluttering this group friendship.

Determined to enjoy the full potential of the spooky mansion, Nadia suggests that the gang share ghost stories. The friends wile away the late-night hours with round after round of eerie tales. As one does.

The estate has a colourful history. A thousand years earlier, it was to be the site of a lavish wedding. Alas, the groom died before reaching the mansion. His disappointed bride did what any reasonable person would do in her place and had herself buried alive to wait for the day when her dead husband-to-be finally arrived. Once a year, a new sacrifice was buried alive to keep the bride company.

And what better candidate for the latest sacrifice than bride-to-be Nadia?


This falls into the rich genre of privileged young people [1] doing something clearly unwise, confident their status will protect them from any and all consequences. A good part of the story is testing to see if this faith in their own invulnerability is well founded. The answer is no but also yes. 

The story is told from Cat’s perspective. She’s the group’s bisexual disaster. She and Lin are equally genre aware, thus they are very conscious that as the party’s designated queer person (Cat) and comic relief (Lin) they’re right at the top of the list of candidates to be the sympathetic character who gets killed to prove there’s a legitimate supernatural threat. And it’s not like Cat gets plot immunity thanks to being the story’s narrator. Not when this is a ghost story. Neither one runs away, so I guess they really must like their friends. 

An advantage of the novella format — in addition to it being a length within my currently limited ability to focus — is that brevity forces the author to get on with things in a timely manner. No digressions here: we meet the characters, get a sense of who they are and what history they share, and then the characters begin doing stupid things, not least of which is the business with the ghost stories. Telling ghost stories in a haunted house is up there with trying to navigate a mine field by stamping firmly on the ground. As one would expect from her previous novellas, Khaw carries it off with skill and energy. A bracing shot of horror for people who like that sort of thing. 

Nothing but Blackened Teeth is available for pre-order here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: Granted, most of them would argue only Phillip is a billionaire, but none of them are scrounging aluminum cans to buy Kraft Dinner.