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The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

The Bone Key (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Sarah Monette

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3372232,652 (4.12)52
Title:The Bone Key
Authors:Sarah Monette
Info:Prime Books (2007), Paperback, 248 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2008 Book List, LITA, short stories, ghosts, supernatural, horror, Mystery, archives

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The Bone Key by Sarah Monette (2007)


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A collection of spooky stories, connected by the presence of a stuttering bibliophile main character. The very scariest were "Bringing Helena Back" (just from the title you know the terror that awaits, but Monette freshens the revenant story by using a POV outside the revenant and the lover that won't let her go), "The Venebretti Necklace" (because ghosts haunting basement libraries with uncertain lights and a dangerous metal staircase hits far too close to home), and most terrifying of all, "Wait For Me." (Dead little girls are scary. Mirrors that show things that aren't there are scary. Faces without eyes are scary. Combine all of those into a single, generation-long haunting? I will pee my pants.) Others delve deeper into Booth's character and history, like "The Bone Key" and "The Green Glass Paperweight." I quite liked Booth, who is almost incapacitated by social situations but brave and absolute in the face of necromancy and ghoul pensioners. And I loved the dream logic by which the horrors often operated; it worked for me in a way few ghost stories manage to. A very solid collection.

(I should mention that I do not read the horror genre, as a rule, and so to veterans of that area these stories may seem less fresh and scary. To a fantasy fan like myself, they were on the verge of being too scary to enjoy.) ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
At its best, The Bone Key is a really great Victorian ghost story pastiche. But like many anthologies, it has trouble sustaining the level through its many stories. Nonetheless, it was short and always enjoyable.

Kyle Murchison Booth is a querulous museum worker with a cursed history and an affinity for the otherworldly. His (mis)adventures see him brushing up against everything from lovecraftian terrors to the more pedestrian spirits that haunt our world. Monette is mostly riffing on Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost Finder and M.R James, with a more American bent and a few other nods here and there.

The excellent foreword to the collection outlines what she perceived as some of the shortcomings of the Victorian ghost story - with which she is clearly and thoroughly acquainted. Namely, an unwillingness to confront the often sexual subtexts running through the work, and the shades of racism and various other isms underpinning the genre. Booth's stories were her attempt at both homage and corrective - and in my opinion they largely work on both scores.

The best stories combine a sense of subtlety (so pronounced in Victorian ghost stories, and lacking from much contemporary horror) with a richer palette of terror and the otherworldly. There's nothing scary here, per se, but there is a nice sense of both spookiness, and kookiness - Monette is well aware of the more silly facets of the genre, and regards them with affection.

All of this, including the weaker stories, is held together by the character of Booth himself. Delightfully awkward and prissy, despairing yet also canny and courageous when he needs to be, he is a wonderful construction that really has depth and attraction for a reader - superior, almost an exaggeration of every bland protagonist the genre is built upon.

I enjoyed this anthology, it's slight but very fun. However, I am steeped in Victorian ghost stories like a shipwreck in the briny deep, so I'm completely unable to say whether someone without that background would enjoy it at as much. ( )
  patrickgarson | Jun 19, 2014 |
You know, the more I think about this book, the more I really love it. As stated elsewhere, it's a a series of interlocking short stories in the life of Kyle Murchison Booth. It's set in some historically nebulous time in the years after WW2, but the protagonist is so NOT grounded in the physical world that the lack of a detailed setting works very well. The things he pays attention to are exquisitely detailed, and I love that because specific detail ought to reflect what the pov character cares about.

Best for my inner language geek is the phenomenal amount of word-porn in this book. Booth's narration uses old words, antiquated words, and words whose primary meanings have gone far afield from their rare usages -- which leads to some lovely poetic double readings throughout the book.

The ending (SPOILERS AHEAD) given in The Green Glass Paperweight was kind of huge for Booth and makes me wonder what happens next. We're led to believe he recovers some freedom to feel, but I'm not sure we see enough to believe in it. *ponders* ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
I think this will be one of the rare books that improves as it sits in memory. It's a collection of short stories that follows a progression, a character development and graceful reveal with no info dumps, no clunky "this is why I'm the way I am."

Kyle Murchison Booth is the kind of damaged and endearing Sarah Monette excels at. Through the stories, he progressed from helplessly watching eventually to acting and having an effect on the results. At the same time, his history comes out in these glimpses and flashes that make you hungry for more as you're aching. ( )
  GinnyTea | Mar 31, 2013 |
Kyle Murchison Booth is the kind of character who really needs a hug, except if you did hug him he'd probably end up shaking from the trauma for days. He's an immensely Lovecraftian character, more so than anyone else in these stories; in fact, I think he's the only character who knows what kind of universe he's in.

As horror, the first few stories in this collection didn't work so well for me, but the last two or three did. (Oooh, that hotel. *shudder*) As a modern retake on Lovecraft & the early twentieth century ghost story, they're all quite good. And as stories about Kyle Murchison Booth, they're fantastic. Monette's talked about writing more, and I can't wait. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Monetteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Thomas, Lynne M.Introductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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this book is dedicated to

M. R. James



H. P. Lovecraft

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This book is a series of interconnected short stories, written between 2000 and 2006. (Introduction)
I was contemplating the fragments of an unidentified animal's skull, late on a wet, windy Friday in March, when a voice said, "Booth? Is that you?" (First Story)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809557770, Paperback)

The dead and the monstrous will not leave Kyle Murchison Booth alone, for an unwilling foray into necromancy has made him sensitive to-and attractive to-the creatures who roam the darkness of his once-safe world. Ghosts, ghouls, incubi: all have one thing in common. They know Booth for one of their own . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:53 -0400)

An unwilling foray into necromancy makes Booth attractive to the creatures who roam the darkness of the world. Ghouls, ghosts, and incubi single him out as one of their own in these ten stories.

(summary from another edition)

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