The Visitors Book by Sophie Hannah

The Visitors Book by Sophie Hannah
The Visitors Book by Sophie Hannah

This is a lovely collection of creepy ghost stories, which I read during a howling gale in a remote cottage in Devon when The Delightful Mr F and I were last on holiday. The climatic conditions contributed to my being quite considerably spooked. 

The stories are unnerving, mainly because the set-ups are so mundane. The description of a children’s birthday part had me laughing at the stress of the host’s parents as they try to stop crips being trodden into the expensive Axminster. My smiles disappeared pretty quickly as it becomes clear that one little boy hasn’t been collected by his parents. 

Another story sees a young Mum at the school gates struggling with the politics of the school Mum clique, it doesn’t end well. 

Add to those two stories, the mystery as to why a new boyfriend is so desperate for his date to sign his visitors book and why someone in a post office queue appears to be dead, and you have a great set of plot twists. 

May I recommend renting a cottage somewhere remote during a storm to get the full effect?

The Small Hand by Susan Hill

The Small Hand by Susan Hill    
The Small Hand by Susan Hill    

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I have said it before and I will say it again. Susan Hill certainly knows how to write a darn good ghost story. I have reviewed several on the blog. In this one we meet Adam, an antiquarian bookseller, who gets lost in the English countryside and stumbles across a run down Edwardian house in the middle of nowhere.  Frankly that should have been enough for him to turn his car around, drive quickly away and never look back. That wouldn’t be much of a book though would it?

He goes to explore the place and feels a small cold hand take his, a child’s hand.  He is subsequently hounded by nightmares and more episodes of the hand in his, sometimes more threatening than others.

I won’t say any more for fear of spoilers, suffice to say it is creepy. Very creepy. There are some stunning set pieces in particular a journey up a narrow mountain road to a monastery, which frankly had me terrified*. The ending is clever, linking the small hand to the lives of the characters within the book without feeling forced. It’s a quick, but excellently crafted read. Just don’t go exploring derelict Edwardian houses willy nilly. It will only end in tears.

 *I should know better than to read Hill’s books at night.

Lost Journey by AL Barker

Lost Journey by AL Barker
Lost Journey by AL Barker

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This is another of Galley Beggar Press’s Ghost story collection, and is one of my favourites. In this tale we meet Gerda, who, by her own reckoning, is several centuries old and is desperately trying to work out how to die. Aided and abetted by the young and beautiful Lalla she lures the young man who narrates the story into their world.

 This little story, and it is little at only fifty pages, is at the same time funny, dark, and rather frightening. There is an underlying sense of dry humour and observation about humans and how we try it get what we want, overlaid by a fantastic ghost story.

 It is rather like an acerbic Canterville Ghost. 

The Eyes by Edith Wharton

The Eyes by Edith Wharton
The Eyes by Edith Wharton

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This is a lovely edition from the folks at Galley Beggar Press as a part of their ghost story set.

This little book was a really interesting read for me. An old writer, having had some friends round for dinner proceeds to tell them how, on two occasions he has been haunted by a pair of disembodied eyes at the foot of his bed.

On one level it is a straightforward, rather creepy ghost story about a man who doesn’t behave very well towards his fiancée being made to pay by a malevolent sprit. However, after some consideration I wondered if there was a little bit more to this than met the, pardon the pun, eye.  Several aspects of it were nagging at me. A couple of hours of research later, and it is clear that readers from around the web all have very different and inconclusive ideas about what the eyes actually were.

I don’t want to give too much away, but would love to know if anyone else has read it, and what they thought the eyes were.