A groom promises to be
at the church on time, even if he has to come back from the grave to do
it. A man inherits a property where he discovers a portrait of a woman
that will change his life forever. Two newlyweds find their dream
country cottage, unaware of an ancient curse from the previous owners. A
gripping, unsettling and utterly chilling collection of short stories
from a best loved storyteller.
For many people Nesbit will forever be tied to her books for children such as 'Five Children and It' and the perennial classic 'The Railway Children'. I've not read either of them and my experiences with the good lady have entirely revolved around occasional appearances in ghostly anthologies of stories such as 'Man-Size in Marble' and 'John Charrington's Wedding' both of which, unsurprisingly, feature here.
In this instance 'here' is a brand new collection of her supernatural stories from Penguin which is part of an odd set of five books that also features John Christopher's 'The World in Winter', the feminist sci-fi of Joanna Russ' 'We who Are About to...', cyberpunk romp 'True Names' by Vernor Vinge and the urban fantasy of 'War for the Oaks' by Emma Bull. As I said, an odd assortment and all presented in garish day-glo cover art.
Inside the giant pink skull that adorns the book in hand we find ourselves in very capable hands indeed. Ms Nesbit has an assured touch and her stories are taught and deliciously macabre. Aside from the wandering statuary and ghostly nuptials she presents us with stories of love lost ('Hurst of Hurstgate' and 'The Ebony Frame'), about the price of revenge ('The Violet Car'), about the madness of guilt ('In the Dark') and the destructive selfishness of pride ('From the Dead').
Scattered amongst these are a couple of standout tales such as the cosmic Jekyll & Hyde of 'The Five Senses' and 'The Three Drugs', the obsessive revenge of 'The Head' and the entertainingly gossipy story of 'The Shadow'.
These sort of collections often offer up a couple of duff tales and this is no exception but it is unfortunate that they constitute the final three in the book which means it all ends on a bit of a downer.
This is though a pretty enjoyable selection. There's nothing here that you'll lose any sleep over but as a fun excursion into a vivid imagination it's a bit of a treat.
Buy it here - Horror Stories (Penguin Worlds)