The Haunting Season by Various Authors – review

Published by Sphere

Publication date – 29 September 2022

Source – review copy

Long before Charles Dickens and Henry James popularized the tradition, the shadowy nights of winter have been a time for people to gather together by the flicker of candlelight and experience the intoxicating thrill of a ghost story.

Now eight bestselling, award-winning authors – all of them master storytellers of the sinister and the macabre – bring the tradition to vivid life in a spellbinding new collection of original spine-tingling tales.

Taking you from the frosty Fens to the wild Yorkshire moors, to the snow-covered grounds of a haunted estate, to a bustling London Christmas market, these mesmerizing stories will capture your imagination and serve as your indispensable companion to the cold, dark nights.

So curl up, light a candle, and fall under the spell of winters past . . .

A man running away from his past takes on a house and a deadly game of chess. A woman and her child find that refuge will not be found in her father’s remote cottage. A mysterious island and it’s inhabitants make visitors forget. A mechanical chair has a mind of it’s own. Holly and Ivy bring back memories of a terrible incident. A woman appears to be driven mad after the birth of her child. A man is driven to his wits end on the hunt for a creature to make his name. All of these stories are bound together in The Haunting Season.

The stories in the collection are: A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins, Thwaite’s Tenant by Imogen Hermes Gowar, The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley, Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd, The Chillingham Chair by Laura Purcell, The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Michael Hurley, Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Monster by Elizabeth Macneal.

As with any short story collection, there were some that stood out, though none were not worthy of inclusion. Ones that stood out for me were  A Study in Black and White, in which a house takes the game of chess to another level, Thwaite’s Tenant which shows a woman fleeing from her violent husband and Lily Wilt where the body of a girl draws huge viewing audiences and enthrals a young photographer with terrible results , though that being said, all of the stories were enjoyable. There’s a wonderful sense of gothic about the tales, it is easy to imagine the worlds created within, and just as easy imagining them being read 200 years ago by candlelight, huddled by the fire. There is a sense of unease in all of them, from the outright hauntings to the suggestion of malevolent forces, either corporeal or ethereal.

Many play on themes of the times the stories are set, the subjugation of women, treated as property or bound to be forever tied to cruel and violent husbands, the idea of divorce all but a pipe dream. These are stories of greed, of sibling rivalry and of comeuppance, retaliation and revenge. If you are looking for happy endings don’t read these.

There’s a skill in creating a good short story. A believable world has to be created with few words, a complete tale driven by brevity. These are all examples of good short stories. The reader is left satisfied that they have read a complete story, but also with the wish that there were more.

This is a great collection to curl up with on a dark winter evening. Candle light optional.

You can buy a copy of The Haunting Season from Bookshop.org here (affiliate link so I may receive some money from any purchases).

It is also available from your local independent bookshop or Waterstones.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sounds like a great collection

    Like

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