Overall Rating of the Anthology: 3.5 Stars★★★★☆
Nocturnes is a collection of short horror fiction by John Connolly. Reminiscent in style of the classic Victorian ghost stories, his are at the same time much darker. A collection full of monsters, ghosts and things that lurk in the shadows.
The Cancer Cowboy Rides
A man has arrived in a small town, coughing strangely and looking seriously ill. Little do the people of the town know that he brings death with him.
This story was just too long and not very interesting to boot. A weak start.
Mr Pettinger’s Daemon
Mr Pettinger is a priest returned from the Great War. He is given the task to go to a town and retrieve the priest there, who is acting decidedly odd. For he is digging for something in the chapel.
Delightfully creepy. A great horror story, particularly the ending.
There are stories we tell children of monsters lurking in the darkness. Stories that should better be believed, for some monsters come at night, calling out to children to join them…
I love stories about monsters and this one was incredibly well written. The Erlking was terrifying. I really would not want to meet him. Better keep your doors and windows locked at night…
The voice came again, closer now, and in the shadows before me, a figure moved. I thought at first that it was the branch of a tree, so thin and dark was it, its frame wrapped in grey as if spiders had spun a thick skein across it. But the branch reached out, and the twigs of its fingers gathered and beckoned. Waves of strange desire emanated from it. They washed over me like the tides of a polluted sea, leaving me filthy and soiled.
“Boy. Beautiful boy. Delicate boy. Come, boy, embrance me.”
The New Daughter
A father moves to the country with his daughter and son. It is a beautiful place with an odd mound in the garden, called either a faerie fort or a burial mound by the locals. Soon it becomes clear that there’s definitely something wrong with the mound. And then the daughter starts to act weirdly as well.
Such a creepy story. I read it on a sunny day, light shining through my windows, and it still freaked me out.
The Ritual of the Bones
The Montague school for boys is an elite institution. Every powerful man in the empire has gone through its gates. And every ten years, it takes on two scholarship students. Little do they know that there is a more sinister purpose to the opportunity they are given.
It was an okay story, but compared to the previous ones it fell a bit flat. What was going on at the school was a little too absurd for me to take it seriously.
The Furnace Room
A man comes to a small fishing village to escape his past. He gets a job as a night watchman in an abandoned factory. Everything goes well until he witnesses something strange: a furnace burning where none should be burning and mysterious figures guiding a man into the room.
I liked this one. It was a very classic horror story and well-written.
The Underbury Witches
Two Scotland Yard inspectors are called to the village of Underbury when a man is found murdered under mysterious circumstances. It seems as if someone pushed a hand with very long nails through his chest.
A good story that gets the tone of the time exactly right. There wasn’t all that much of a mystery, not much detective-work required from the reader, but it was creepy enough.
The Inkpot Monkey
A writer struggling with writer’s block purchases a Chinese inkpot with a mummified monkey attached to it, said to give inspiration to artists. And it does. All it requires in return are a few drops of blood…
The ending was weird and the story could have been much creepier for my taste.
The Shifting of the Sands
An abbey is reopened in a town that has made very clear that they want nothing to do with the Christian church. The priest sent there soon finds out that there are older gods worshipped there.
Another story with a good ending. However, overall it was a little too by-the-book.
Some Children Wander by Mistake
For the first time in William’s short life, the circus comes to his small town. He’s looking forward to the clowns in particular. But there’s something more to Circus Caliban than meets the eye.
Clowns are inherently creepy but the story behind why was a bit too absurd for me.
Deep Dark Green
Baal’s Pond is a strange place, where the water flows sluggishly. It is a place best left alone, for there is something sinister living in its green depths.
Let’s just say that if water is described as oily and you can’t see the ground, you shouldn’t set a foot in it. What lived on the bottom of this particular pond was very, very nasty.
Miss Froom, Vampire
Miss Froom’s roses and her gardening skills are the envy of all her neighbours. They wonder what the secret of the decidedly lovely lady is but she never accepts any help from them. Until a young man happens to pass by.
I loved the style of this story. It was quirky and fun.
The Wakeford Abyss
There’s an abyss near wakeford the locals will not get close to. There are numerous rumours of what lives in its depths but none of these stories stop two ex-soldiers from exploring it.
Yeah, people should learn to listen to local stories a bit more.
After the death of his wife and eldest son, a writer moves to a small village, where he hopes to find peace for himself and his son. He does not know until it’s too late that it is the house of a child-murderer. He’s dead, or so they think. For at night the old piano is playing and a boy calls for his son to come and play with him.
Everything that involves children ups the stakes. Creepy ghost children are even worse. Nocturne has everything a good horror story needs: creepy house, child in danger and even the piano playing in the night.
The Reflecting Eye: A Charlie Parker Novella
John Grady murdered several children in his house. Grady killed himself when the police caught up with him. But something dark taints the house and now someone posted the picture of a little girl to the murderers house. Charlie Parker is hired to find out what’s going on and protect the girl at all costs.
This story was dark. A bit too dark and too long for my taste. It was too lost in details that I found myself skipping time and time again.
Mr Gray’s Folly
A couple buy an old house, beautiful if not for the ugly little temple-like thing next to it. It is said that there is something buried beneath…
There’s a trend in many of these stories where the sinister thing is connected with femininity. That what was really scary are strong women. We get this with the Underbury witches, with this story and with many others.
A woman had to work late and it happens on the worst possible day: the beginning of her cycle. She is struggling against the pain and then her train stops in the middle of nowhere.
I liked the take on an old myth here.
The Bridal Bed
A young bride is murdered just a few days before her wedding and her fiancé goes mad with grief.
Another very classic horror story. This one playing with the blurry line between the supernatural and madness.
The Man from the Second Fifteen
After a class meeting, Asquith gets lost on country roads. Then suddenly he hits something in the dark and before he knows it, he is being taunted by a monster.
Eh. Asquith was very unlikeable so I didn’t really care whether he lived or died. And the monster was a bit underwhelming compared with many others in this book.
The Inn at Shillingford
There was always an inn in the town of Shillingford. Before locals burned it down because the innkeeper was suspected of baking beautiful girls into his pies. It has stood that way ever since, but when a man named Teal gets there, a light is burning in the window and a bed awaits him.
The creepy inn that is something else at night – another classic. And it was well written. A bit too graphic in places for me.
This is one hell of a horror anthology. Never read these stories at night. I’ll keep my windows closed from now on.