Sarah Monette has had a busy past few months. The August 7th release of her third book in The Doctrine of Labyrinths quadrilogy, The Mirador, and the mid-October release of a collaborative novel with Elizabeth Bear, A Companion to Wolves, might be enough to satisfy virtually any fan, but now she has pulled off the publishing hat trick. A few weeks ago, after a two month delay, her collection of stories starring Kyle Murchison Booth was published by Prime Books as The Bone Key.
The Bone Key contains ten interconnected stories written between 2000 and 2006, most of them first appearing in various online and print publications such as Lovecraft's Weird Mysteries and The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror XX. These stories star a mild-mannered and sometimes maladroit museum curator named Kyle Murchison Booth who, after a necromantic experiment, has found himself able to see supernatural creatures. However, this goes both ways and Booth finds himself having encounters ranging from a possessive dead guardian of a cursed necklace to a demonic love interest.
Ghost stories are among the most ubiquitous of tales. The intrusion of the spectral into our mundane world, the interposition of the strange and the familar; these create tensions that make people sit on the edges of their seats as they listen or read on for the next instance of the things that go bump in the night. Monette, with her academic background in Elizabethan era dramas, especially those involving ghosts, captures that sense of "what's going to happen next?" in these stories. Having such a mild-mannered and awkward character such as Booth allows Monette to create all sorts of dramatic tensions due to the juxtapositions of the likable but non-threatening Booth with these haunting ghouls and other creatures from the other side of the veil of life.
Compared to her novels, the stories found within The Bone Key are more "accessible" for the average reader. Since the average reader, if such a term as "average" ever really applies to a living person, will have had some exposure to ghost stories, it is much easier to "lose" oneself into these stories. While Booth's stories are told via a first-person PoV (in part to ratchet up the tension, since he himself does not know what comes next), he is a more "likable" character than say a Felix or a Mildmay might be for those unfamiliar with Monette's novels. It is much easier to sympathize with him, especially in "Elegy for a Demon Lover." Combine that with the recognizable surroundings and this is a recipe for memorable and spine-chilling stories. Highly recommended for all readers.
Publication Date: October 16, 2007 (US), Tradeback.
Publisher: Prime Books