I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.by Jonathan Oliver, K.J. Parker, Nina Allan, Robert Shearman, Sarah Lotz, Tade Thompson
Published by Solaris on December 2016
Genres: Bizarro, Dark Fiction, Ghost, Horror
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One house, five hauntings, five chilling stories.
Five Stories High is a collection of five novellas each set in the same house – Irongrove Lodge. This five storey Georgian mansion, once a grand detached property, has now been split into five apartments. This is a building with history, the very bricks and grounds imbued with the pasts of those who have walked these corridors, lived in these rooms.
Five extraordinary writers open the doors, revealing ghosts both past and present in a collection that promises to be as intriguing as it is terrifying.
Oh the Blurbs. Why do they lie? I promised myself this would be the year of the DNF and I am failing quite spectacularly at that promise. The problem is story collections. I may never read another one again. Story collections are the bane of my reading life this month. I can’t DNF them because I fear that if I do so, I’ll miss out something mind-blowing. This one has two good stories that are chilling and set in a haunted house. The other three? I haven’t a clue how they found their way into this collection.
Maggots by Nina Allan
Maggots started out interesting enough but it soon went off the rails for me. A young college student suspects something is off with his beloved aunt after she goes missing for a brief moment while on vacation. He begins to obsess over thoughts that her body has been inhabited by another. . . Sounds good right? And it was at first but then it got terribly dull. It devolved into his search for the truth. That search leads him to Irongrove Lodge, which isn’t haunted in the typical way, ugh, and then he discovers some cosmic weirdness. This kind of story just wasn’t what I was expecting from the blurbage. I didn’t find it chilling or haunting. 3 Stars
Priest’s Hole by K.J. Parker
After my disappointment with story #1, I will admit to skimming Priest’s Hole almost immediately once I realized it too was not about a haunted house but about a shape-shifter instead. If I wanted to read the daily goings-on and meanderings of a day in the life of a shape-shifter I would’ve picked up another book. A sexier book, if truth be told. What on earth is going on here?! I cannot rate this one because I only read enough of it to realize it wasn’t the story I was looking for and I moved on to the next. DNF
It was here that I nearly DNF’d the entire book but figured I’d give it one more shot and I’m glad I did.
Yep, that was not a typo. I’m glad I did!
Gnaw by Tade Thompson
The perfect little family moves into Irongrove Lodge and the husband begins to renovate. Uh oh! You know that is never a good idea! His wife has reservations about the whole thing but the husband does what he wants. This story is a slow, slow burn but boy does it ever start to pay off in the final act. The son starts acting strangely and then the wife starts seeing extremely unsettling visions. I absolutely adored this story. The atmosphere, the creeping dread, the horrific images it has burned into my brain? It’s all awesome and it is the reason I am so glad I did not DNF this book! This was the kind of story I was hoping for when I requested this ARC from Netgalley. It’s a shame they weren’t all written in this vein. 4.5 Stars
The Best Story I can Manage Under the Circumstances Robert Shearman
This is story would fit right in if this were a bizarro collection but this was not marketed as a bizarro collection. So, what we have here is a baby born with only a head. It has no legs, no arms, no torso, no nothing besides the head but it’s alive. Alright. But don’t you worry, soon after another baby is born with just a torso and a little peepee and the two baby parts find each other, hook up and match perfectly. Now what are the odds? Then things switch over to a boy and a strange little door that appears only on his birthday. Was it the same baby boy now fully whole? Don’t ask me because I was skimming at this point. I honestly couldn’t comprehend what was going on here and found it all just a strange jumble of words. Eventually I threw in the towel and DNF’d it. This was not at all what I wanted when I picked up this book.
Skin Deep Sarah Lotz
The collection ends on a good note, at least. Skin Deep is about an older woman who purchases Irongrove Lodge for her boy toy. It’s clear a terrible thing happened when the story begins and it is slowly revealed how she earned the nickname “The Butcher”.
This was told from many POV’s which kept things lively and kept me guessing. It was dark with slowly creeping dread and as a bonus I got to watch a slow descent into madness. Great stuff and another 4.5 star story that’s worth a read.
It’s a shame 3 out of these 5 stories felt like they belonged in another collection.