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Joe Hill, ‘The Devil on the Staircase’ (2010)

And so, we reach the climax of the anthology, and this is a great way in which to end it. Hill tells of a boy who lives in Italy (towards, I’d surmise, the end of the 19th century), in a mountain village accessible only by a network of staircases cut into the cliffs. The boy has eyes for his cousin, Lithodora, and one day kills her lover in the heat of the moment. He then encounters a devil in the form of a child, who gives him a tin bird that sings a beautiful song when told lies.

Hill’s telling has the flow of a folktale; the rhythm of his prose is emphasised by the downward slopes in which the text is arranged on the page. Add to this a neat metaphorical undercurrent (the tin bird comes to represent the spread of propaganda), and you have a fine story indeed.

Rating: ****

Joe Hill’s website

This post is part of a series on the anthology
Stories; click here to read the rest.