My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The framed anthology, or portmanteau, is a difficult device to pull off. I know I'm writing one myself. But as fans of Amicus films will tell you, when it's done right it lives with for a long time.
I think Quiet Houses is more Asylum than Tales That Witness Madness. The stories are connected seamlessly and each feels like it has earned it's place inside the overall arc of the book. I'd even go so far as to say it's closer to the Ealing classic Dead of Night in that respect. Also for the fact it's not really horror, but good old fashioned ghost stories told in a very modern way.
It's easy to see that Simon Kurt Unsworth not only has a great love for the genre, but also for the locations he chooses in these stories. Each setting also becomes a character in every story. It's when comfortably placed in these locations that the author turns the uncomfortable dial to ten and makes us look for the nearest taxi rank. Though knowing Simon Kurt Unsworth the cab would probably be driven by a spectre who would drive us to a very dark place inhabited by memories of death.
My favourite segment is 'The Elms, Morecambe'. Followed closely by '24 Glass House' and 'Stacks Farm'. Though saying that I can't really decide between any that easily.
If you like ghost stories written in an intelligent and beautiful manner. Or if have a love of portmanteau films and like a good scare, then you needn't look further than Quiet Houses by Simon Kurt Unsworth.
Buy 'Quiet Houses'
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