Spectre: Stories from Dark to Light is Verena Tay’s first collection of short stories. A spectrum of tales ranging from the supernatural to magic realism, from fantasy to reworkings of folktales, this anthology seeks to terrify and inspire and encourages the reader to find darkness in the ordinary things in life and light in the depths of the soul.

Reviews of Spectre include:

Summary of Contents

Honey's Story

If you were to be killed and dismembered, what would your greatest desire be? Let Honey tell you her tale...

The Land

Why are some places cursed and remain so? A four-part story that suggests how and why a certain shophouse in Singapore is filled with darkness.


Are pontianaks real? Can they exist in the 21st century? Read and find out.

The Gravedigger

Gravediggers bury people, right? But if they exhumed corpses instead for the wrong reasons, what would then happen to them?

The Fisherman's Wife

If you caught a lucky fish, would you let it go or would you get it to grant your wishes? A fisherman's wife received more than what she bargained for.


For years, Hui Luan has kept her frustrations and anger in, growing old and obese in the process. But when at last she seeks release, magic happens...


All Sherry wants is to coast through life with her boyfriend, Wei Liang. Finally, she gets her wish.

The Doll

In a child's imagination, even the cheapest, most nondescript doll can be the most precious thing in the world.

Fast Food, 1979: Portrait of an Old Lady

When McDonald's set up shop in Singapore in 1979, it revolutionarised the eating habits of all and sundry, including the elderly.

Quotes from Critics

"The time span covered in the nine stories encapsulates somewhat the history of Singapore from a land settled in by seafaring folk through colonial times and the post-war years to modern Singapore in the global era with all the paraphernalia of white and steel in home décor and fast food in shopping centres. By telling these tales of gloom from bygone and modern times, Tay has revealed that no amount of external trappings can hide the dark side of human nature, which invades even the most ordinary HDB flat. Yet, the light promised in Tay’s preface still manages to glimmer, perhaps all the more precious in the enveloping darkness. Honey’s murderer husband tries to do his best for their son. Violators of maidens receive some due punishment and even a lonely old lady finds solace in the tomato sauce she manages to save from her unpleasant burger. Tay does not waste words in her storytelling, only saying enough for the reader to follow the drama. Observant and dramatic, these dark tales told in multiple voices contribute to the literary landscape of contemporary writing from Singapore and prompt the reader to anticipate with interest the first novel from a true daughter of Singapore."

~ Agnes S.L. Lam, ASIATIC, Vol. 9, No. 1, June 2015, pp. 265–266 (last accessed: 19 Jul 2016)

“With her finger on the pulse of Singapore’s social scene, Tay is able to prod literary culture by recalling magical myths of the homeland and putting them into a contemporary context, re-signifying the myths from ethnic histories into repressed anxieties haunting Singapore’s populous. Tay’s technique is most effective when she focuses on the gore and horror caused by objects that transcend historical eras – the land, racial lineage – suggesting that the Singapore surveillance state, no matter how hardwired for optimisation, cannot contain the festering fear of isolation, disease, rejection and death.

Tay’s most innovative contribution comes in her promising narrative form, as her stories lead from narrator to narrator in sometimes tenuous threads that become meaningful through their sudden juxtaposition.”

~ Christopher B. Patterson, ASIATIC, Vol. 9, No. 1, Jun 2015, pp. 221–224 (last accessed: 1 Apr 2017)

“This short sampling of stories, Tay’s first venture into fiction, marks a promising turn in an already brilliant career. The stories range from dark and chilling to a more this-worldly consideration of the spectral in a metaphoric sense. All of the stories offer some insight into Singaporean life and culture, a place where ghost stories have long been best-sellers on the local release list. Tay’s collection is to be commended for taking the popular interest in ghost stories and expanding it, offering a richer exploration both of the themes that entice and the soil from which this interest has grown.”

~ Shelly Bryant, Disturbed Digest, June 2014 (edited by Terrie Leigh Relf), Cedar Rapids: Alban Lake Publishing, p. 95.