Spooktober, Day 9: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

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“This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before: a novel with notorious murderer Lizzie Borden as the protagonist, fighting Lovecraftian monsters from the sea. How many times have we heard that old chestnut?

The premise of Maplecroft by Cherie Priest is that Lizzie Borden was mistakenly charged with axe-murdering her parents, who had begun to transform into Things That Cannot Be. Now, Lizzie has retreated to her new home, Maplecroft, along with her sickly sister, Emma, where they keep an eye on the sea and guard against the encroaching hoards of fish-monsters. But the story is rooted in human drama: in Lizzie’s growing fatigue from caring for her sister while fighting monsters at night when all she wants is to spend time with her girlfriend. Emma, meanwhile, is determined to prove her worth as a biologist by sending away a sample her sister finds on the beach…

I love Cherie Priest: she has such a knack for narrative voice, for nailing the feel and tone of a place and time. She takes a premise that sounds far out on paper and manages to inject it with gravitas, filling the story with a creeping sense of dread as madness descends on the Borden sisters. Maplecroft is a beautiful hybrid of historical crime thriller and cosmic horror, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a little bit more from their Lovecraftian fiction.

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Spooktober, Day 8: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.

I have become convinced that Neil Gaiman is some a wizard. Because every story he writes somehow seems so effortless, so easy to read but jam-packed full of imagination. The Graveyard Book may not be my favourite of his novels (*coughs*American Gods*coughs*), but it’s definitely his most accessible.

The Graveyard Book is the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens, who is orphaned in the intro by a serial killer and raised in a nearby cemetery by a family of ghosts and a reformed vampire. Most of the book is made up of a series of short stories and vignettes about Bod’s adventures growing up in the graveyard, encountering ghosts and witches and werewolves and a human girl who slowly tempts him to rejoin the world of the living. And if anyone of this sounds familiar: yes, it is based on Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

The Graveyard Book is a delight for all ages: it’s horror-themed without being too intense for young readers, while well-written and layered enough that it never feels “childish”. So if you’re looking for a break from all the terror of Halloween but still feel in the mood for something spooky, check it out.