Fiction Reviews


The Visitorís Book

(2015) Sophie Hannah, Sort of Books, £8.99, hrdbk, 96pp, ISBN 978-1-908-74552-1

 

Published by Sort of Books, Sophie Hannahís slim collection of four ghost stories could be labelled 'sort of ghost stories'. The first eponymous tales is the best of the bunch when a woman called Victoria is having an increasingly menacing date with Aaron at his house as he insists she signs his visitorís book. She flees, but there is something about this encounter that does not ring true Ė that particular book, clearly from some sort of country house or visitor attraction, so why does he have it, and who signed it last? Then it all becomes chillingly clear. This is the best of the four tales gathered here and could have sassily been longer and has the potential to be turned into a play or hour long TV drama.

The rest of the tales are spot on in terms of modern settings Ė we get the mums gathering at the school gates for their offspring in a story with the great title 'All the Dead Mothers of My Daughterís Friends' which is full of acidic gossipy tittle-tattle and jealousy and petty feuds.

In 'Justified True Belief' we get someone stuck in a traffic jam who starts seeing ghosts, or are they seeing people who are about to die, and do they suddenly have this ability because they are dying too?

In 'The Last Boy to Leave' we have two parents in a very funny story trying desperately to cope with the mayhem of their sonís tenth birthday party which is taking place in their house. As you can see, the situations, the characters, the dialogue all ring true, but the stories either peter out, or have a vaguely old-fashioned, telegraphed ending.

A shame really that Hannah, the best-selling novelist of psychological thrillers, as well as the novel The Orphan Choir under the Hammer imprint, and a previous collection called Something Untoward: Six Tales of Domestic Terror shouldnít quite deliver here in this slight, over-priced oddity.

Ian Hunter


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