Shades of Grey

Rated 3.88/5 based on 24 reviews
John is not a very nice man. He works for the government. So who has tied him to a chair and what do they want? James is a British soldier during WWII. Tom is a young boy with a terrible secret.

Three stories. Three very different people. All of them battling to survive.

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Words: 45,400
Language: English
ISBN: 9781465814364
About Michael Cargill

I am a new author currently living in England.

Over the years people have often said that I should write a book so, in mid 2011, I did just that! My first few books are available for free and I hope that anyone who goes to the trouble of downloading and reading one enjoys it.

Feedback of any kind is always welcome.

Also by This Author


Review by: A Voracious Reader on June 09, 2015 :
*Book source ~ A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

This anthology contains three fictional tales of suspense and nail-biting. Each is very different from the other, but they all kept me on the edge of my seat. Should you pick up this book be prepared for tension build-up.

Shades of Grey ~
John is some kind of British secret agent who gets caught and is tortured.

I was a bit confused at the beginning of this one, but it soon came together. Pretty good read and it left me wondering, but in a good way.

There and Back Again~
James is a British soldier in WWII and this story has nothing to do with Hobbits, Dwarves or a certain adventure.

This was my least favorite story of the three. It’s well-written, but history isn’t really my thing. It is interesting though.

Down the Rabbit Hole ~
This is about a boy named Tom and his stuffed rabbit named Borger, who does not carry a watch or proclaim he’s late.

Poor Tom! I hate his dad and I have to say he got what was coming to him though the school counselor got a bad deal. That stuffed rabbit of his is way creepy. What the hell?
(reviewed 4 years after purchase)

Review by: Leigh on July 25, 2012 :
"Shades of Grey" is a compilation of three unique short stories with a recurring theme of torture/abuse. My favorite was the second story where we get a glimpse into the life of James, a British solider during WWII. The author was able to draw me into each story through his descriptive detail of each character and how they dealt with their situation. Even though the subject matter is disturbing,I would recommend it to adults who are looking for a thriller.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)

Review by: Becky Chatelain on July 02, 2012 :
I liked this book. The last story was my favorite. A little dark, but for me, the darker, the better. I'm anxious to read his next book. I received this book for no charge after agreeing to review it. I wasn't disappointed !!
(reviewed 33 days after purchase)

Review by: Alison Gussack on June 20, 2012 :
I read Shades of Grey to review for Shut Up and Read. These 3 stories were very well written. I enjoyed the first and the last the best. They both grabbed me from the beginning like a good short story should. The middle one was a little drawn out, but still very good. Thanks to Tt and Read to Review and the author! I am eager to see what else Michael Cargill has to offer. Considering he is a self-described "new author" the writing is especially good!
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: JF Lab on June 18, 2012 :
I received this copy for review. I am sorry to say that this is one fo the few books I have ever had to put down and not finish. I only made it a few pages into the first story. The character of John was so off-putting, so narcissistic, so uncaring about others, that I did not want to be in his thought, his head. Sorry about that. I usually do my best to find some redeeming quality in a story or book, especially one that an author personally give to me. I will try to read this again some other time and do another review.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: RaeBeth McGee- Buda on June 11, 2012 :
I'm not one for short stories.... until now. I read Shades of Grey by Michael Cargill and I must say it was worth it. It's three stories of three different people in very dark worlds. The first story Shades of Grey follows the story line of a captured UK black ops agent. The main character of this one seems to be the one which is allowing the reader into his thoughts. Michael pulled me right in with this one. The second story There and Back Again is brought to the reader completely different than the first. It's focus is on a soldier during World War II which is packed with action. The third Down the Rabbit Hole is about a young boy who's abused becomes friends with his toy rabbit. This rabbit turns out to be his help in his time of need.

I give this story four **** stars. I very much enjoyed it and I'm glad I had the chance to read it.
(reviewed 76 days after purchase)

Review by: Angie Lenkevich on June 04, 2012 :
In Shades of Grey, we find the tale of John, a soldier who has been captured. John doesn't remember how he got here or even where he's at. John sifts thru his memories of the past to be distant in the present. John's captor tries to get him to talk but hasn't had any luck so far. John knows that he can't give out any information to his captor. Will John break? Or will John be rescued? In There and Back Again, our tale picks up the story of James, a soldier in World War II fighting in France. James tries to see the best of things yet the harsh reality of war is all around him. James and his fellow soldier David seem to be where the action is. James seems to know when trouble occurs near his unit. Can James stay out of trouble? Will he see some action? Down the Rabbit Hole, a young boy named Tom leads an unhappy life with his family. Tom's father Jack is an abusive man that wants little to do with him. Tom loves his mother and his stuffed rabbit Borger very much. One day Tom discovers that Borger can talk to him and nothing is the same afterwards. What do Tom and Borger do? Can Tom get away from his father? Answers to all these questions are in Shades of Grey.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)

Review by: frellathon on June 02, 2012 : (no rating)
I got a copy for review and have to say I was very pleased. Michael Cargill is an author I will make a point to read from now on because of Shades of Grey, it's a great sampler of his work.

I love short stories and the three in this book are no exception. The first about a man who wakes up to find himself tied to a chair. Out the window a lovely park children running, band playing inside the room with him are people who will do whatever it takes to find out what he knows.
The second about a soldier in WW II an interesting tale with such a detailed account of the start of the war from one mans perspective.

The third about a little boy who is abused by his father. When his stuffed toy rabbit starts talking to him is it a good or bad thing?

All so different from each other and yet so great an enjoyable. The author does a great job on character and story building and in such a short span. Wonderful job and again Michael Cargill is an author who's work I will be on the look out for.
(reviewed 41 days after purchase)

Review by: Lucinda Fountain on May 29, 2012 :
Having not read any works by this author before I was hence unsure of what to expect when offered ‘shades of grey’ to read, but I was certainly not expecting to be as overwhelmed by it as I was. Upon sitting down to read this book that is a work comprising of three individual short stories (part one being ‘shades of grey’, part two being ‘there and back again’ and part three ‘down the Rabbit hole’), I sat transfixed for several hours lost within the authors work reluctant to move and somewhat disappointed when I had finished. Each story was unique and completely singular showing how diverse a writer Michael Cargill is, and how universal these stories are that will appeal to so many different kinds of reader.
Part one ‘shades of grey’ instantly captured my attention and I was immediately drawn into the story from the very first few lines. After only a short amount of time the reader suddenly encounters an unexpected twist within the tale, which turns a somewhat predictable beginning of a story into something exciting and that made me want to read on as I sat in tense anticipation and excitement. This was certainly cleaver and I loved how I learnt so much about the main character strait away, without enduring any lengthy history or long descriptions; the fast-pace was set and the momentum was continued throughout. I loved the descriptions and the use of metaphors to create vivid imagery, for an example I loved the line; “…felt as if they had been cleanly sawn off and someone had stuffed angry bees into the wounds.” Just great writing! Another intriguing twist was when you actually found out the main characters supposed connection to the UK government, but which contrapuntally leans towards crime and the darker side of life. How he described his character was completely engaging and how he thought of his actions like a ‘show’ was a fascinatingly brilliant way of shedding light on the criminal mind. I loved the use of flashbacks and how it flicked from the present to the past, helping to develop the reader’s understanding of the main character and storyline. It was utterly readable, full of fast-paced action and completely engrossing, with one particular description reminding me of a film called ‘Taken’. The conversational style made it feel as if you were conversing with the main character. The use of short sentences also helped to add pace and highlight the intense drama.
Part two ‘there and back again’ completely juxtaposed part one entirely, and which instantly transported me to the battleground with its atmospheric & realistic portrayal, that touched upon all the senses. The reader is thrown headlong into all the action and taken on a personal journey through the eyes of the main character. The soldier’s innocence and the futility of war is emphasized throughout, with all the realism & horror. Part three ‘down the rabbit hole’ was ever so sinister and mentally impacting hence It has stayed on my mind since. The relationships and emphasis surrounding the violent father is so clearly depicted, that you can almost feel what the characters are feeling. There was a lingering feeling of foreboding, an eerie presence out of the corner of your eye that kept me in utter suspense and tense throughout. It felt always as if there was something more apparent than met the eye, and the tension and drama built to an exciting climax. The only element that left me despondent was the cliffhanger ending which especially on this story I would have preferred not to have, and since reading ‘shades of grey’ I am now longing to read more.Completely brilliant, 100% engrossing and something that as someone who does not read short stories very often it is surprising that I cannot enthuse enough about this book.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Julie Rainey on May 27, 2012 :
I usually read novels and was skeptical that a short story could offer the same satisfaction of being transported to another world, but these stories do just that. Each story was raw and real, making you feel as if you were right smack dab in the middle of it. Truth be told, I didn't want the stories to end.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Heather Schrock on May 22, 2012 :
I had agreed to review this book after receiving a fun email from the author. I hoped that falling for his personality didn't set my sights too high for his book. Well it did.......NOT.

The first story, Shades of Grey, gets you into the mind of a government agent in the UK. Who has been tied to a chair and is being held captive by an unknown. You get great bursts of imagery in this one and lots of crude language.

The second story, There and Back Again, is about a soldier in the British Army during WWII. Lots of violence and is touching at the same time. Very fitting for the times, I think.

The third and final story, Down the Rabbit Hole, is my favorite. Tom is an abused child who clings to his stuffed toy for comfort. The toy rabbit comes to life to help Tom work things out, but takes a different turn.

All three stories are dark and violent, but not overly so. All were good reads!
(reviewed 13 days after purchase)

Review by: Ruth Benitez on May 21, 2012 :
I didn’t know what to expect of a book with three stories in it that at first look a bit different. Luckily, I ended up enjoying a book mainly about life and about survival, fear, death and our conscience.
In Shades of Grey we found three short stories. They are very different but similar stories, about men at a breaking point of their lives. At first it may look like they don’t have nothing in common but after you finish I think you would find out that they share a lot of characteristics.
They are united why the way they see life and death. They share the fact that they have their past really present in every move they made. Each one of them deals with death in a different way. Their stories show us things that sometimes we believed are wrong, without trying to justify them. The purpose of the book is tales us about these men (although one is a little boy) and what’s going on inside their heads, but without act like a redeemer for them. You never feel like somebody is trying to find a reason of why they act this way.
The author have the ability of transports us into each one of the stories. You can feel yourself strapped out to a chair, in a hole during a war and as a child trying to deal with life. Every feeling is really well described and I found a couple fragments very funny.
My favorite one was the last one Down the Rabbit Hole; in this one the author really makes a good job. Tom as a little kid still has that innocence where he doesn’t distingue between good and bad. Tom doesn’t understand yet the idea of taking some choices that would bring consequences, and has his imagination as his ally.
In the other two we found John and James, the first one is sort of a spy, which I love, and has a really interesting mind. Everything he says sounds funny. And then we have James, who is in the World War II, I really like his story. I’m a fan of historical books, but in this one we focalize in him and how he sees war.
Overall, a great book, that proves us that what matters is quality, not the length of the book.
(reviewed 12 days after purchase)

Review by: Midu Hadi on May 18, 2012 :
There are some writers..hand them anything and they turn it into a story..Michael Cargill is one of them.

The three stories in this anthology are simple stuff but that doesn’t make them less interesting.

The first story,”Shades of Grey”, is about John. He’s a man who works for the government and is absolutely insane.

The second story is “There and Back Again” which focuses on James who is a British soldier taking part in a war for the first time. The ambiance and the emotions of the war are described beautifully, as is the feeling of guilt and shame when a soldier is asked to retreat.

The last story is called, “Down the Rabbit Hole”, about Tom who has an abusive father whose behavior is getting worse everyday. Then Tom’s favorite toy bunny starts to talk to the kid and solves his problems its own way.

All three stories are based on characters that are flawed due to events in their past and are trying to rise above it.
(reviewed 65 days after purchase)

Review by: Pepper Owens on May 14, 2012 : (no rating)
3stars – an anthology

During the first story (Shades of Grey) features a man resisting interrogation and having his place on a team reaffirmed. So we’re looking at the individual’s impact on the societal paradigm. Inside the second story (There and Back Again) our central characters are soldiers and we examine the differences between courage and cowardice with WWII the backdrop. The third story (Down the Rabbit Hole) is looking more at abuse within a family unit.

Throughout the stories the common thread of an individual’s thought process and ethics when examining or working through specific violent situations and its impact on one’s societal paradigm. As the ethics of the main characters in each story is held up for examination so are the readers. This book seems to be geared to a very narrow audience and may be overlooked by the general public.
(reviewed 24 days after purchase)

Review by: Susan Ashcraft on May 12, 2012 :
This is a compilation of three short stories by Michael Cargill. Each of the stories has a unique twist and are each written with flair.

Its another sunny Saturday and people are flocking to the park. People around the statue, lovers holding hands and people out for a walk in the wam sunny weather are all enjoying the the green space. But not John. He's a little tied up at the moment. Why do people keep asking him "Tell us what you know."? If they'd only listen, he'd could tell them so much!

THERE AND BACK AGAIN and DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE complete this compilation. Both of these stories are also well written and well worth reading but the first story is my favorite of the three.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Brenda Grainger on May 12, 2012 :
When I saw the announcement on anyone interested in reviewing this book I signed up in an instant. Not because it's m/m because it def isn't that. I told myself I would go out of my normal genre reading zone and chose this one. Boy did I ever! The cover I'll say is what brought my attention to the forefront the most.

Michael presents you with 3 stories. 2 with men and one with a young boy.

1. Shades of Grey: Features John who's kidnapped and you'll read in his POV his thoughts while he's being held captive.

2. There and Back Again: About James. A soldier in the war and experience his ordeal.

3. Down the Rabbit Hole: Young boy named Tom and his mischievous stuff animal toy.

I won't give more details than the above on each story since I'm not one to spoil it for potential readers. What came to mind after even having finished the first story was Sterling's Twilight zone storied. I really enjoyed the time that was aired on the tube. I miss them, but Michael brought some of that back with these short. Shorts versions that have potential to become great novels and def a great read from the norm.

I got a great taste of the genre I haven't really explored outside of m/m before. These interesting stories has a little bite that left me wanting more and their endings left it wide open for your mind to think, wonder and explore the possibilities of the impossible. You'll experience a mixed bag of intrigue, fascination and chills in the vivid details.

Overall this is a decent book worthwhile for fans of these kinda stories and I highly recommend it. But my honest perceives me and out of all 3? I impartial the last one the most with little Tommy.

A two thumbs up and I look forward to reading what others Michael has to offer.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Darian Wilk on May 01, 2012 :
Shades of Grey is a collection of three short stories, all touching on violence and death. Although this may sound a bit gruesome or odd, it's quite the contrary. Each story is from a different perspective, all seeing violence, life, and death differently than the other stories. Which was a nice approach for me. While I haven't read many collections of shorts, the ones I've had felt so similar they almost blended together to me. That's not the case with this collection - each story stands on its own.

The first and main title, Shades of Grey, is about a John, a government agent in the UK. Its told through his thoughts, as he's tied to a chair by an unknown captor. Cargill pulls you into the mans thoughts so deeply that they almost feel as if they're your own. He connects you with the character, not an easy task to accomplish with a short story. In Cargill way, there are bits of humor throughout the story, which added a lightness to the scene, yet connected you even more to the character.

The second short is There and Back Again, about James, a British soldier during WWII. This story comes at a completely different angle than the first. I loved the emotion it evoked. It shows how, sadly, war can make people become almost numb to violence and its affect on others. This was a very touching, heartbreaking read for me - one I think many would also feel an impact from.

The last title is Down the Rabbit Hole, is about Tom, a young boy with a very loving mom, and jerk, abusive dad. His best friend is a stuffed rabbit, who Tom finds out has come to life to help Tom with the issues in his life. Of course, Tom is thrilled, until things turn for the worst down a sinister path. This short is the favorite of most reviewers. It's much darker than one might think at first, certainly a very interesting story, and was fleshed out very well by the author.

I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite of the three; all offer so much for being short stories, and from such different perspectives. The author did a wonderful job separating each story, making it truly its own, not comparable to the rest. Cargill has a little darkness about his writing, a quirky humor, that I quite enjoy. This collection of shorts has good reviews and ratings for a reason - it's well written and very entertaining. If you're looking for something that's a little bit different than the norm, I'd say this book is for you.

**My review copied from my blog,
(reviewed 54 days after purchase)

Review by: Cae on April 29, 2012 :
Title: Shades of Grey
Author: Michael Cargill
Rating: 4/5

Summary: This is a collection of three stories where each of the main characters have one thing in common – the desire to survive. John is not very nice. James is a soldier for the British in WWII. Tom possesses a terrible secret.

Shades of Grey: British operative John, nicknamed many things, but one of them is “John the Baptist” has been abducted and is being tortured. This story is crude and tormenting, but it is fantastic and it leaves you with that dirty and dingy feeling of being in the mind of someone truly twisted.

There and Back Again: This story is about James, a soldier during World War Two. It is action packed and filled with the savagery of war and the bonds that can form from those extreme circumstances.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Tom, a young boy who is abused, soon finds that his stuffed rabbit is actually a help with his problems. Child’s toy soon comes to life and begins to aid him with his problems, however things eventually turn sinister and Tom’s happiness soon shatters.

This collection of stories, though short, is filled with action and adventure with a dash of strange. I am not normally a fan of something so crude as the first story, but it was something that was well written and I do enjoy like it. The best story of the three in my opinion is the third story. All in all, a fantastic book and I truly did enjoy it. I thank Michael Cargill for giving me the opportunity to read his book in exchange for this unbiased and honest review. It was a pleasure.

If you have any questions, comments or recommendations you can contact me at
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(reviewed 9 days after purchase)

Review by: Sandy on April 23, 2012 :
The writing of these three stories was astonishing and I was moved by the depth and the realism I felt as I read each one of them. Each of them was unique in their storyline but the characters each came out a different person in the end. A better person? Well, that all depends on your own perspective. To tackle a variety of different storylines inside one book was a nice change and I commend the author. The author did an excellent job in the details of each story, giving the readers just enough information about the characters and their surroundings, that I didn’t feel overloaded with the sights, sounds or unnecessary information. I can’t say which story was my favorite as I think a couple of them I’ll remember for a while. The story Shades of Gray has so many little symbols of things that come to mind when I recall the story. While the hostage is tied to a chair, the thoughts that go through his head are so random that they are funny yet so predictable, I think. In There and Back Again, I was transported to WWII and lived it, at least a small part of it through the eyes of a young and brave soldier. Finally in Down the Rabbit Hole, I met Tom and Borger. I thought this story had a lot of twists to it. It also made me think of everyone’s evil side and I love the way the story ended.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)

Review by: Jenny Franklin on April 22, 2012 :
I enjoyed Shades of Grey By Michael Cargill. It is 3 short stories all are dark and a little unique. The three stories were all really well written and it was worth the read. I am a little disapointed that you never found out why John was being held captive in the first story. The second story was a good military read, it reminded me of the stories my grandfather used to tell me about when he went to war. I personally liked the third story best, Down the Rabbit Hole. I liked the direction the story went and it reminded me of some other stories about evil dolls etc.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)

Review by: Sheri on April 21, 2012 :
Shades of Grey is a collection of three short stories, each dark and unique.

The first story in the collection, Shades of Grey, is told from the perspective of John, a UK government agent. The story takes place in John's mind as he is tied to a chair, and we get to see where his thoughts take him as he waits to be questioned by an unknown captor. The author did an excellent job getting into his character's mind, and I found myself really liking John. The humor sprinkle throughout the story was great and had me laughing out loud a in a few places.

There and Back Again is the story of James, a young man in the British Army during WWII. The story was well written and very detailed. I loved the emotion the author was able to evoke through this short story.

Down the Rabbit Hole, the third story, was by far my favorite. Tom is a young boy with a loving mother, an abusive father, and a dark secret. This story was much darker than the first two, and I loved the way it was played out.
(reviewed 41 days after purchase)

Review by: Mugerwa Dickson on April 05, 2012 : (no rating)
Well,all i have to say,if you read the first paragraph, you are enticed to read the second and then third and on and on. It just leaves you in suspense wanting to know more and more.. A great war story for all readers!!
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: laura thomas on March 30, 2012 :
Michael Cargill, with Shades of Grey, gives you three very different tales.
What you get are well written, engrossing tales that deal with torture, the horrors of the battlefield, and physical abuse, which draw out a subjective response.
Be prepared for some dark, thought provoking reading as this book is not your typical collection of scary stories.
(reviewed 36 days after purchase)

Review by: Heather Boustead on March 29, 2012 :
Shades of Grey: British operative John, or “John the Baptist”, has been abducted and is being tortured; this is a crude and tormenting short story that delves into the psyche of the tortured mind.

There and Back Again: An Action packed story of James a soldier during World War Two, showing the savagery of war and the bonds that form under such extreme circumstances.

Down the Rabbit Hole: An abused young boy, Tom, finds that his best friend, a stuffed rabbit, has actually come to life to help him with his problems. Tom is ecstatic until things become sinister.

This collection of short stories is about one hundred pages of action, adventure, and even a taste of the somewhat strange. I personally wasn’t a fan of the first short story only because it tended to bounce around too much for my liking and was a bit too crude for me, but in my opinion Michael Cargill managed to pull it off with the last two stories, even saving the best for last. There were only a couple of things I could see that needed revising other than that well worth the read.
(reviewed 10 days after purchase)

Review by: JR Barker on March 24, 2012 :
I have to say it took me a longer to get around to reading this than I would have liked, but it was well worth the wait.
It’s not often I will sit a read a book in one go. I couldn’t even put it down between stories. There are three of them.
This book is not for the faint hearted. The tales are disturbing, dark and absolutely gripping. The stories suck you in, spin you around in a deliciously dark world and spit you out before you know what’s happened.
Michael really makes use of all five senses, which makes each story more three dimensional.
Each story is gritty and enthralling in a different way. All three are completely different from each other and it does credit to the authors versatility.
I hope he does write a novel as I would love to read it.
(reviewed 27 days after purchase)

Review by: JR Barker on March 24, 2012 :
I have to say it took me a longer to get around to reading this than I would have liked, but it was well worth the wait.
It’s not often I will sit a read a book in one go. I couldn’t even put it down between stories. There are three of them.
This book is not for the faint hearted. The tales are disturbing, dark and absolutely gripping. The stories suck you in, spin you around in a deliciously dark world and spit you out before you know what’s happened.
Michael really makes use of all five senses, which makes each story more three dimensional.
Each story is gritty and enthralling in a different way. All three are completely different from each other and it does credit to the authors versatility.
I hope he does write a novel as I would love to read it.
(reviewed 27 days after purchase)

Review by: Sibel Hodge on March 09, 2012 :
Fans of military stories will enjoy the first two in this collection. My personal preference was the third one, which reminded me of a Stephen King genre. They were all well-written and interesting, but I would've liked to have know why John was being held captive in the first story as that was never really explained.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)

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