In this collection, ten old-fashioned ghostly stories are connected by their unwilling and frequently-appalled narrator, the unfortunate Kyle Murchison Booth. Awkward, insomniac, painfully shy, the archivist participates in just one badly-orchestrated necromantic ceremony and now the dead won’t leave him alone. He finds skeletons entombed in his museum’s basement; he’s plagued by specters at his 15-year school reunion (aren’t we all); and his ancestral line has a curse on it. He cannot even recuperate in a convalescent hotel without its turning out to be a haunted convalescent hotel. In short, he is a living, breathing Edward Gorey character.
Inspired by the antiquarian ghost stories of M.R. James, Monette’s elegant prose delivers shivers without gore, Lovecraft without the bombast. The stories are endearingly bookish. In this world, there is such a thing as a “noted antiquary,” and there is always a library that needs to be cataloged. Even at the convalescent hotel! I particularly enjoyed “The Venebretti Necklace,” with its shades of Poe and suspenseful consultation of old books in haunted library stacks. And I’d be glad to read many more stories featuring the cheerfully ghoulish little old ladies of “The Wall of Clouds,” gossiping about hangings, poisonings, mysterious vanishings, and “the dreadful tragedies that had struck the family of Doris’s second cousin Irene.”
The collection has been nominated for one of the first annual Shirley Jackson Awards for dark fantasy and horror.
Check the WRL catalog for The Bone Key. I’ll be over here, avoiding the library basement. Also the elevator.