Fiction Reviews

Thirteen Storeys

(2020) Jonny Sims, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, 392pp, ISBN 978-1-857-82788-3


Horror. One apartment building, many stories. A chilling thriller that’s perfect for fans of horror like Get Out and It Follows. A dinner party is held in the penthouse of a multimillion-pound development. All the guests are strangers – even to their host, the billionaire owner of the building. None of them know why they were selected. Besides a postcode, they share only one thing in common – they’ve all experienced an unsettling occurrence within the building’s walls. By the night’s end, their host is dead, and none of the guests will say what happened. His death remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries – until now…

Thirteen Storeys is the first novel from Jonny Sims, who is better known in the world of horror as the creator and presenter of The Magnus Archives which recounts the adventures of a fictional paranormal institute, and in a way Thirteen Storeys is an extension of that podcast, given the novel is full of short, sharp shockers, or spine-chillers, told within an over-arching theme which doesn’t get in the way too much. The theme here, being the murder, or rather slaughter, of Tobias Fell the billionaire owner of Banyan Court which provided luxury apartments for the super-rich as well as affordable housing for the not-so-super-rich, rather like the apartment block in Cory Doctorow’s novella “Unauthorized Bread” where the rich and poor live in different sides of the same block, and never meet, but occasionally catch a glimpse of each other when the wrong lift door opens. Not surprisingly, the poorer side of Banyan Court didn’t get the same care and attention as the luxury side and there were several accidents and deaths during the construction phase culminating in developer, Fell, being butchered at a party in his penthouse suite and no-one has known the true circumstances surrounding that awful event, until now, as the 13 guests at the party recount the supernatural experiences they had at the building leading up to the party, experiences from being residents or from having worked on the construction of the building. Each story is a chiller and ends with an unexpected invitation to Fell’s party.

I love those old portmanteau films of old, stretching way back to Dead of Night and through the 1960s and early 1970s, staring the likes of Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, even Roy Castle and Alan (‘not ‘alf) Freeman. They were great fun, telling five stories over an hour and a half. My only quibble here with Thirteen Storeys or Thirteen Stories are that there are 13 of them, all varying in style and tone, and scary subject matter, but it is perhaps a lot of characters and events for my ageing brain to keep track off. Younger readers (which are probably most people other than me) will no doubt not have similar problems, but you do have to pay attention, everything is important, after all, these are matters of life and death. Anyway this is a minor quibble and if anything a testament to Sims skills at creating very different, but believable characters with their own set of backgrounds and circumstances. Their lives might not be perfect, but they are going to get a whole lot worse because of their interaction with Banyan Court. Thirteen Storeys is great fun – darkly funny, gory, and chilling in equal amounts and builds towards a shocking, horrific climax, while announcing the arrival of a new voice in horror, and someone I look forward to reading more from.

Ian Hunter


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