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Nocturnes…In Case You Want a Very Creepy Christmas

December 23, 2007

For short story Sunday this week, I’m going to look at John Connolly’s horror collection Nocturnes. Coincidentally, J.S. Peyton also mentioned Nocturnes today. She’s not quite through it, but she’s already learned not to trust clowns. ;) I’ve noticed that among short story afficiandos, there are those that skip around in a book and those that read the stories in their published order. I confess to being one of the latter; I’m very much a schedule and order person, so it’s comforting for me to know which story I’m reading next. I admire the kind of people who work through a collection randomly, but I simply lack the imagination. (And before I forget to mention it, if you look to the upper right you’ll see a new page: “The Lists of 2007.” If you want to see all of my top ten of 2007 in eight categories, that’s the place to go!)

The best part of reading Nocturnes was the variety; all of the stories were really creepy, but they were written in so many different styles, I never knew what to expect next! The other best part was the goosebumps I kept getting…it’s not often than an author can consistently scare me. My hat’s off to Connolly.

The creepiest story, for me, was “The New Daughter.” A single father, with a twelve year old daughter and five year old son decides to move to the country, looking for peace. Their new house is rambling and old, although “absurdly underpriced.” (Note to self: never buy a gorgeous piece of property if the price is too good to be true; bad things will inevitably happen.) On the grounds is a large mound:

It was perhaps twenty feet in circumference and a little over six feet in height. Its origins were unclear: some in the village referred to it as a fairy fort, a former dwelling place for some older, mythical race. Others said that it was a burial mound, although it went unmentioned as cush in archaeological records of the area.

Meanwhile, apparently coincidentally, the father finds some half-burnt drawings that must have been left behind by the previous tenant, a children’s book illustrator:

The illustrations were uniformly horrific, I felt, dominated by pale half-human creatures with melted features, their eyes narrow oval slits, their nostrils unusally wide, and their mouths agape, as though they relied predominantly on smell and taste for their survival. Some had long tattered wings extending from bony nodes on their backs, their membrances punctured and torn, like those of dead dragonflies rotting on the spider’s web.

I think you can see where this is going by now, especially considering the title. In fact, on the second page of the story, the reader finds out the ending:

All I can say for certain is that I awoke one night to find her standing in the darkness by my bedside, my son asleep beside me. I said to my daughter-or what used to be my daughter-“Louisa, what’s the matter?”
She replied: “I’m not Louisa. I am your new daughter.”

I won’t say anything more, since I don’t want to ruin the whole story for everyone, but it was very, very disturbing. I had half a mind to check my backyard and make sure there weren’t any unusual mounds there! ;)

Well, it’s almost Christmas, so I’m going to wrap it up here. Suffice it to say, I think anyone who enjoys being scared will really, really love this collection. Horror seems to go hand in hand with the short story form, and Connolly is a definite master.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2007 2:58 am

    This sounds very good, I really want to read the New Daughter now! Have a lovely Christmas.

  2. December 24, 2007 7:36 am

    Eloise, have a merry Christmas as well! I definitely thought of you while I was reading this book. :)


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