Book review: New Ghost Stories II from The Fiction Desk
Upon sitting down to write this review I realised that it must look like from this blog that I only review books I’m in, so before I start – you can read my review for the first Fiction Desk ghost story anthology over here at Goodreads!
Now, without further ado: New Ghost Stories II is the eighth short story anthology from The Fiction Desk, a series which fast became my favourite (and not just because I’m in a few of them, including my story Twice a Day With Water in this volume).
This is another wonderful, solid, varied and always intelligent collection of stories. As a huge fan of supernatural and horror, but not a massive fan of gore, it’s a proper treat for me to read some new literary takes on the genre.
Several of these stories are very traditional ghost tales with a modern setting – Amanda Mason’s Incomers, Tamsin Hopkins’s The Table, Bernie Deehan’s Hell for Leather – but are consistently beautifully told, with style and character that ensures they’re never cliched. Several aren’t strictly ghost stories at all, using the narrative framework of a supernatural tale to deal with issues of tragedy and bereavement in a very touching way (Matt Plass Next to Godliness, Miha Mazzini The Armies, Melanie Whipman End of the Rope). And Matthew Licht’s The Bear Got Me is just plain disturbing and creepy and I’m still not sure if that’s because of the bear or not…
As usual I have a few personal favourites from this collection. The Table by Tamsin Hopkins is a perfect ghost story, delicately told with the most adorable protagonists; a tale right after my own heart. The Time of Your Life by Lucinda Bromfield is another traditional one (are my tastes very obvious?) a tale of the encroachment of modernity that is utterly evocative and sad. Finally, In Yon Green Hill to Dwell by Jane Alexander is a modern retelling of Tam Lin that was a very deserving first prize winner in the 2014 Fiction Desk ghost story competition. Beautiful and eerie, it vividly paints the clash of real life and fairyland.
It’s lovely to have another ghost story anthology from such a great publisher, and an honour to be included in it. I hope it’s not the last ghost anthology they publish: after all, as editor Rob Redman says in his introduction, “We have to do what the stories tell us”.