Three novellas that have in common that they’re ghost stories but, more important for this reader, that they’re superb pieces of storytelling. There’s a sense of M.R. James about them (indeed, I spotted a “visual quote” from James at one point, albeit involving a cat rather than a dog, and there could easily be others I missed), but the style is reminiscent, too, of other, non-Gothic UK writers like Eric Ambler and Graham Greene. If you’re in search of formulaic ghost stories, complete with yer frissons of horror an’ stuff, you may find this collection disappointing; only one of the three tales has a sequence designed to frighten, and it’s not because of a ghost that it’s terrifying. As I say, it’s the storytelling itself that’s front and center here.
Set in the years leading up to World War I, “Broken Voices” sees two young adolescents stuck over the Christmas break at their Cathedral school. One of them, a chorister whose voice is breaking, is desperate to salvage his good name by rediscovering a long-lost piece of bell music written by a composer who fell to his death in the cathedral before the piece could be performed. There’s a sequence Continue reading