Hodder, out now
Enter the most extraordinary library in the world, learn the secret of the Fractured Atlas and much more in John Connolly’s latest collection of shorter tales…
It’s a great time for fans of shorter genre fiction, with new anthologies seeming to pop up almost weekly from small independent presses, and two major collections from Hodder in the space of a month – John Connolly’s Night Music, and Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams (out at the start of November).
Each one of Connolly’s stories demonstrates his sharp observations of human nature, whether they’re set across a wide tapestry of European history (as the fragments from the Fractured Atlas are), or in a small community where the arrival of priests from the Vatican is the biggest thing to happen ever. His penchant for horror – which he talks about at length in the final “story” – permeates the entire collection: the story of Lazarus, The Lamia and The Children of Dr Lyle in particular contain moments to inspire terror, the pictures he paints with words resonating to the extent you’ll believe you’ve seen them.
That doesn’t mean it’s a relentlessly downbeat experience: the concept behind the Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository is life-affirming in an unusual way (and the Sherlock Holmes tale will have fans of the Great Detective smiling wryly at its explanation for certain oddities of the canon). There are moments of black humour, and there’s some insight into the writer himself in I Live Here, Connolly’s discussion of some of his formative influences – and he’s so right in his discussion of elements of Silence of the Lambs, particularly its effect on Anthony Hopkins.
Verdict: A wonderfully engrossing macabre collection. 9/10