I don’t often read short stories (though that will be changing soon…more on that later). Recently, however, I have had the opportunity to snatch some quick reading time and have targeted some short stories and novellas which had caught my eye.
First up is The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill
From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the eerie perfection of 1950s suburbia, the everyday is invaded by the evil otherworldly in this unforgettable collection of new ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black.
In the title story, on a murky evening in a warmly lit club off St James, a bishop listens closely as a paranormal detective recounts his most memorable case, one whose horrifying denouement took place in that very building.
In ‘The Front Room’, a devoutly Christian mother tries to protect her children from the evil influence of their grandmother, both when she is alive and when she is dead.
A lonely boy finds a friend in ‘Boy Number 21’, but years later he is forced to question the nature of that friendship, and to ask whether ghosts can perish in fires.
This is Susan Hill at her best, telling characteristically flesh-creeping and startling tales of thwarted ambition, terrifying revenge and supernatural stirrings that will leave readers wide-awake long into the night.
My thanks to the team at Serpents Tail for the review copy I received through Netgalley
A collection of 4 ghostly tales from Susan Hill. Three stories are outlined in the description above – each took me around half an hour to read and the whole book is around 180 pages in length. I have my favourites, Boy Number 21 and the unmentioned 4thstory (Alice Baker – a chiller set in an office) were the two which gripped me most.
The Front Room is particularly grim reading but I found it didn’t draw me in quite in the way the other stories had done. I find that Ghost Stories are harder to pitch as a collection – while all the stories can be creepy, different people respond to different types of chills so in any collection there will be elements which impact people in different ways.
I do enjoy a creepy tale and The Travelling Bag was the welcome break from reading crime thrillers that I had hoped it would be. The physical book looks rather nice too but its relatively short length made me think it may be more likely to be given as a gift than one a reader may seek out on their own.
Fans of Susan Hill and readers who soak up ghost stories this is one to seek out.
The Paper Cell – Louise Hutcheson
The first in a new series of distinctive, standalone crime stories, each with a literary bent. In 1950s London, a literary agent finds fame when he secretly steals a young woman’s brilliant novel manuscript and publishes it under his own name, Lewis Carson. Two days after their meeting, the woman is found strangled on Peckham Rye Common: did Lewis purloin the manuscript as an act of callous opportunism, or as the spoils of a calculated murder?
My thanks to Sara at Contraband for my review copy
The Paper Cell is a novella from the new Pocket Crime Selection from Contraband Books. It is a beautifully crafted tale of life in the literary circles of 1950’s London. We begin in the modern day, an author meeting with a journalist after the author grants a rare interview. It becomes clear that there are reasons the author has been reluctant to speak with the press – once we are transported back to recollections of the author’s life as a young man in London the shocking truths start to spill out.
Of the three books covered in this post The Paper Cell was by far the one I enjoyed the most. Louise Hutcheson keeps the story slick, her characters leap off the page and you can easily imagine the smoke filled reading rooms and fussy publishers office meetings.
There is a darkness running through The Paper Cell and the reader gets a fly on the wall view of some terrible behaviours and sinister actions. Yet those dark scenes are in the background as much of the story follows young writers pursing their dreams or and young lovers enjoying their blossoming relationship.
Louise Hutcheson can tell knows how to tell a good story and this had me captivated.
A Rare Book of Cunning Device – Ben Aaronovich
Exclusive to Audio! Somewhere amongst the shadowy stacks and the many basements of the British library, something is very much amiss – and we’re not talking late returns here. Is it a ghost, or something much worse? PC Peter Grant really isn’t looking forward to finding out….
Still working my way through audiobooks and this was my introduction to PC Peter Grant – popular protagonist of the Ben Aaronovich Rivers of London series. At 30 minutes running length this free audiobook is a must listen for fans of the series. I can say this only from the position of a new reader as I have not read Rivers (or any of the other Grant books) but I loved A Rare Book of Cunning Device.
The narrator Kobna Holdbrook-Smith has a very listenable voice and the feedback on his performance from other readers is extremely positive as fans of the series have expressed their approval at how he handles their beloved characters.
Deep within the British Library, Peter Grant, comes up against the most formidable of opponents – a Librarian. Oh there may also be a poltergeist but Grant knows better…doesn’t he?