Rose Black’s debut novel The Unforgetting starts with Lily Bell waking in an unfamiliar room, hearing the sea outside and smelling burnt toast; her dreams of becoming an actress on the Victorian stage are about to come true – or are they?
Perhaps the most widely beloved Sherlock Holmes novella, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) holds a unique position in literary history. Its marriage of the gothic and detective fiction makes for a superbly enticing and atmospheric tale, despite even Holmes’s substantive absence for a significant portion. The eponymous hound’s glowing eyes and midnight yowling continue to haunt us. It is, in short, a difficult novel to follow up. In James Lovegrove’s latest pastiche Sherlock Holmes and the Beast of the Stapletons, he attempts precisely this.
Witch Bottle is instantly engaging. After a strange, enigmatic prologue in which the narrator encounters a ghastly cruel giant, somewhere outside our reality, we’re plunged into the minutiae of a milkman’s daily round – like an incantation to normality. The narrator is Daniel, who left his wife and infant daughter some time ago to live alone in a spartan rented house in a remote part of England. He says “I’m just trying to give you a sense of the job here…” and it feels intimate, confessional; Witch Bottle is a tale told to the reader.
Christmas Eve is “the perfect time to hunker down and enjoy the special kind of festive cosiness that you could only get from scaring yourself silly with spooky tales,” says editor, Tanya Kirk, in her short introduction to this excellent collection of weird festive short stories.
Secrets are at the haunting heart of this touching page-turner of a debut novel by C.S. O’Cinneide.
Rial Majur (Wunmi Mosaku) sits across the table from her husband Bol (Sope Dirisu). She looks him in the eye. “After all we’ve endured,” she says. “After what we have seen…what men can do, you think it is bumps in the night that frighten me?” Her husband says nothing. Rial presses him, “You think I can be afraid of ghosts?”
Bone Harvest isn’t afraid to start at the beginning. Part one of James Brogden’s latest folk horror novel is entitled “prepare the ground”, and the cultivation metaphor – cycles of growth, reaping, ploughing-in and lying fallow – also dictates the author’s approach to his story.
Dean Koontz is a first-class storyteller. I have fond memories of squirrelling under the covers in my childhood bedroom with his horror novels, worried my mother would deem them too adult, or some other protest prefixed with “too” that would see me denied his riches. Revisiting Koontz now had no less of a thrill.
“And so the first thing my twin sister and I did, when we finally got access to a camera of our own, was fake a ghost photograph.” Maclean opens The Apparition Phase with Abigail and Tim – two precocious and insular siblings trapped in 1970s suburbia, obsessed with all things creepy and unexplained – faking an apparition and showing the resulting picture to a vulnerable schoolmate.
Natalie Erika James’ debut horror Relic is a quiet, dread-drenched slow burn that sets out to represent the creeping horror of mental deterioration. The film centres around three generations: Edna (Robyn Nevin), the family matriarch who it seems is in the early stages, her harassed and stressed middle-aged daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer), and her free-spirited granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote).