The rest of the year I’d say thanks, but no thanks. This weekend, whooo! The whole Halloween/All Souls/Samhain/chill in the air/approaching darkness vibe just cries out for a spooky story.
According to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, ghosts and ghost stories are a cultural universal. Around the world we’ve been telling ourselves variants of the same stories since time immemorial. Victims of violent crime seeking vengeance, like Hamlet’s father or Macbeth’s liege lord. Innocent Girls Done Wrong, like Giselle. Horrible examples like Scrooge’s late business partner, Marley.
If you enjoy traditional, chilling, scare-you-so-much-you’ll-be-afraid-to-turn-out-the-light type stories, you might like to check out this list of classic stories courtesy of the Guardian.
If, like me, you’re a bit of a wuss and prefer more fun and less stress with your seasonal helping of ghostliness, I’d like to offer you the following recommendations:
A witty, snarky, contemporary, historical, magical murder mystery
Rivers of London / Midnight Riot – Ben Aaronovitch
I always cross my fingers when I read a book written in first person, because it’s such an all-or-nothing choice. Everything depends upon the POV character, and if that character isn’t fascinating, the book is doomed. With Rivers of London, I was sold by the end of the first page, delighted by the end of the first chapter, and dazzled by the end of the book. A clever, snarky supernatural police procedural, told by DC Peter Grant, a probationary constable in London’s Metropolitan Police Service who discovers the city’s magical subculture when he tries to take a witness statement from a ghost. Here’s a snippet from the opening scene:
“Can you prove you’re dead?” I asked.
“Whatever you say, squire,” said Nicholas, and stepped forward into the light.
He was transparent, the way holograms in films are transparent. Three-dimensional, definitely really there and fucking transparent. I could see right through him to the white tent the forensic team had set up to protect the area around the body.
Right, I thought, just because you’ve gone mad doesn’t mean you should stop acting like a policeman.
A contemporary re-working of an iconic story
Maybe This Time – Jennifer Crusie
Jenny Crusie’s homage to one of the most famous ghost stories of all times, Henry James’ The Turn of The Screw. Here’s an excerpt from the blurb:
Andie Miller is ready to move on with her life. She wants to marry her fiancé and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her. A distant cousin has died and left North the guardian of two orphans who have driven away three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs someone to take care of the situation, and he knows Andie can handle anything….
When Andie meets the two children, she realizes the situation is much worse than she feared. Carter and Alice aren’t your average delinquents, and the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers…
I have to confess this isn’t my favorite Crusie, but only because I heart her romances so much. The love story in Maybe This Time is up there with her very best, but it’s not a romance, so there’s not enough North and Andie for my taste. Instead, there are scary bits, funny bits, vulnerable kids, gothic flavors, ghosts good and bad, a fabulous cast of secondary characters, classic Crusie dialogue, tight plotting and an excellent ending.
A fun, sexy, light-hearted contemporary romance with matchmaking ghosts
A Date with the Other Side – Erin McCarthy
Shelby Tucker’s never seen a ghost, but she leads tour groups through the haunted houses of Cuttersville, Ohio. Boston MacNamara’s renting a so-called haunted house from Shelby’s gran while he does whatever he’s supposed to do at Samson Plastics, the local plant. Shelby’s a local girl through and through. Boston dates women who do Pilates and earn six figures without breaking a nail or a sweat. But that’s all about to change, with the help of Red-Eyed Rachel, Nanny Baskins, and the ghosts of Cuttersville.
Do you have a favorite ghost story?
Scary or fun, classic or contemporary, please share! Thank you.