Kyle Murchison Booth is a museum archivist, bookish, erudite, awkward, and painfully shy After a reluctant experiment with necromancy, in the collection s first story, Bringing Helena Back , he finds that he has opened the door to the world of the supernatural, beginning a series of encounters which will bring him into contact with ghosts, ghouls, demons, and the mysteries of the human soul The stories are all excellent subtle, witty, atmospheric, and quietly bone chilling but it s Booth himself whose presence pulls them together and makes them remarkable He could choose to ignore the odd events around him some of them, anyway some demand his attention , but he can t his compassion for others and most of all, his deep need to know and understand compel him to investigate the mysterious happenings around him.
I wasn t sure I d like The Bone Key, as I m not generally a fan of horror or ghost stories, but I was willing to give it a try because I love Monette s other books I m very glad I did Once I started, I couldn t stop I wanted to draw the stories out longer, but I couldn t tear myself away, even when I told myself it would be nice to save some for the evening to read while waiting for trick or treaters If I had to pick out favorite stories, I would say The Venebretti Necklace , which has a wonderful secondary character among other virtues, or Elegy for a Demon Lover , which brought tears to my eye, but honestly, they re all absorbing.
Admirers of M.
R James will discover much to dote on in this collection of linked short stories revolving around a museum archivist specializing in rare manuscripts, who has the unenviable misfortune of routinely confronting the bizarre and the not so natural Sarah Monette has crafted and polished 10 pieces of gothic horror that harken back to the classic bump in the night tales of the 19th Century.
Eschewing gore in favor of atmosphere, Monette creates visions of intelligent, nuanced dread She won t make you scream aloud from sudden moments of in your face terror, but she will conjure icy fingers to squeeze your lungs and steal your breath away Despite getting her inspiration from masters like Lovecraft and James, Monette recognized the shortcomings of such writers when it came to character developmentnot to mention casual racism, smack bottom gender inequality, and homophobia Therefore, in her intro to the collection, Monette states that her intent was to distill the above masters prodigious ability to manufacture fear, and channel it into stories unstained by distasteful isms and peopled with characters worth caring about She succeeded, and the result is our protagonist, Kyle Munchinson Booth.
Over the course of these stories, we come to know Mr Booth as a highly intelligent, well educated person who suffers from almost debilitating shyness and a pathological need to solve mysteries He is tall, lanky, socially awkward, and insecure, despite being extremely capable at his work He lost his parents at a young age, grew up with the nastiest of guardians, and is gay, an orientation that adds to his isolation given the time in which he lives i.
, early 20th century.
Booth is a good man and it s hard not to like him The relationship that develops between him and the reader during the course of the stories adds considerably to their effectiveness THE STORIES The first three stories, Bringing Helena Back, The Venebretti Necklace, and The Bone Key, left me very underwhelmed They were well written and easy to read, but the ghost element was pedestrian and lacked the oomph to move the needle on the fear meter From these stories, however, we do learn about the museum where Booth works, about his unrequited love for his best friend, and that he lives under a family curse, which is explored in the title story.
A major upgrade occurs with story 4, Wait for Me In this one, Monette finally got my creep organ tingling, and left me experiencing heebies and jeebies for days afterwards whenever I passed a mirror Following that gem is Drowning Palmer, a solid effort that finds Booth revisiting his boarding school days in a story themed around bullying, the wolf pack mentality and the stain of abuse that lingers on those that perpetrate it The next two stories are my favorites in the collection and show what Monette can do when she s firing on all cylinders First up, The Inheritance of Barnabas Wilcox, which reads like a perfect M.
R James pastiche In it, Booth finds himself coming the aide of one of his boarding school tormentors in a plot revolving around a dark quest for immortality The end is absolutely flawless Second in the best of collection double header is Elegy for a Demon Lover, during which we finally see Booth address confront embrace his sexuality in a story that is both gorgeously written and achingly powerful Full of love, loneliness, passion, and gut wrenching despair, the end will leave all but the heartless moved When I think of the character of Booth, this is the story that springs to mind Next up is the longest story in the collection The Wall of Clouds finds Booth seriously ill and on the verge of death following the events of the previous story Note the cause of Booth s illness is never explained, but Monette makes it clear in the afterward, and I think knowing this adds something to this story Booth is sent to one of those convalescent hotels that are not quite a hospital to rest and recover Well, it turns out that an abnormally high number of people staying at the hotel have a nasty habit of contracting a terminal case of the deads, and Booth finds himself X filing the situation The penultimate story, The Green Glass Paperweight, is another terrific piece that sheds light on our hero It explores the history and nature of the tumultuous relationship between Booth and his cold, abusive stepparents, and the destructive power of hate The last story, Listening to Bone, is very forgettableso let s go ahead and forget it FINAL THOUGHTS This is a quality collection If it wasn t for my lack of enthusiam for the first 3 stories and the last one, the rest of the tales would have earned a solid 4 stars, with a couple of five star ribbons for my two favorites However, judging all of the stories en masse, I will have to settle for a strong I like it Thus, 3.
0 to 3.
5 stars Recommended.
A very enjoyable set of ghost stories, creepy and inventive Excellent writing and painfully sad at points The author never loses sight of the worst evils being entirely human The Lovecraftian museum is particularly wonderful and in its weird way very funny Reread July 18 Better than I remembered Sad, sensitive, queer, and a beautifully judged arc of stories that interlock just enough and climb to a kind of tiny candle flicker of hope in human nature.
First of all I want to thank you guys for giving my review those seven likes even before I actually had written any review I don t know how you did that, but I appreciate it Seven is a lucky number Now, the review I must confess, I m a bit disappointed with Mr Kyle Murchison Booth and his amazing titular Bone Key, because it wasn t amazing at all Who ever have called it amazing you may ask Well, I did myself, because I thought the title was luring and promising, duuh Also that sweet word necromantic , mmmmHere I will tell you, I will actually warn you, that if you re reading a horror book and in the first chapter there s a sentence likeI ve read seen unimaginable terrible things in there, too terrible to mention any of them to youdon t expect fireworks in following ones OK, maybe I m too harsh, maybe you will say Lovecraft didn t do that much either, he worked with atmosphere, but I will riposte, that Lovecraft did describe Cthulhu in detail dozing over there on his rock or w e, or how stinky Dagon was and didn t saythey saw a creature so horrible, that I won t be describing it here to youSo not really much necromancing is going on, not literal one at least, but you will get the atmosphere and a lot of atmosphere building Which actually worked But I wanted something Something bone chilling or at least unsettling.
Instead you will read a lot of how Kyle was nervous, stressed, getting pale, getting red, sweating, feeling uncomfortable, escaping in his mind, escaping in real, trying to not be seen, etc, etc Kyle is a recluse and an introvert with paranormal abilities and psychological problems, to say the least, and all he wants from people around him is to leave him alone Which I could understand and support to the point that I wanted to not finish the book, so Kyle could live his life not being distracted by anyone Which said, I must confess I liked him as a character, yes, surprised much after all this bitching, yeah I liked Kyle, even though he was stiff and unsociable and I just pity that he wasn t given some action, some interesting stuff to do, than just polite conversations or watching things going on with others Or self loathing In fact, I even find this book beautifully written, masterfully, in great style and atmosphere that is comparable to the great masters of suspense and horror The ideas were good, the horror parts I don t know I didn t get scared Maybe 11 year old me would be I have no idea why people tag it as horror It s not, it is really not I d tag it as an old fashioned victorian gothic is there a progressive victorian gothic, btw and label it 12.
So yes, I am a bit disappointed with this story collection, it was a bit too slow, too tame for my liking, but I also enjoyed the writing, some parts of it really much, but it missed the WOW element, a lot 3 stars, because in general I liked it If you like your gothic a bit sedated you can give it a try.