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The Bone Key: The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth

(Kyle Murchison Booth)

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4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,282 ratings  ·  197 reviews
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 . . .
Paperback, 253 pages
Published October 23rd 2007 by Wildside Press (first published June 1st 2007)
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Stephen
Admirers of M.R. James will discover much to dote on in this collection of linked short stories revolving around a museum archivist specializing in rare manuscripts, who has the unenviable misfortune of routinely confronting the bizarre and the not-so-natural. Sarah Monette has crafted and polished 10 pieces of gothic horror that harken back to the classic "bump in the night" tales of the 19th Century.

Eschewing gore in favor of atmosphere, Monette creates visions of intelligent, nuanced dread. S
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K.J. Charles
A very enjoyable set of ghost stories, creepy and inventive. Excellent writing and painfully sad at points. The author never loses sight of the worst evils being entirely human. The Lovecraftian museum is particularly wonderful and in its weird way very funny.

***

Reread July 18. Better than I remembered. Sad, sensitive, queer, and a beautifully judged arc of stories that interlock just enough and climb to a kind of tiny candle-flicker of hope in human nature.
Caro the Helmet Lady
First of all I want to thank you guys for giving my review those seven likes even before I actually had written any review. I don't know how you did that, but I appreciate it! Seven is a lucky number!

Now, the review. I must confess, I'm a bit disappointed with Mr. Kyle Murchison Booth and his amazing titular Bone Key, because it wasn't amazing at all. Who ever have called it amazing? - you may ask. Well, I did myself, because I thought the title was luring and promising, duuh. Also that sweet wo
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sage
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 ...more
Fey
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: horror fans
Let me start by pointing out that I'm already a huge fan of Sarah Monette. I love everything I've ever read by her. I suppose that could make me biased towards her works, but I'd actually like to think that it only makes me more harshly demanding. Afterall, if I've rated most of her other works 5 stars this one has A LOT to live up to.

But oh look - ANOTHER 5 Star Rating. She's done it again! damn I love this woman.

Kyle Murchison Booth is a quiet, shy, reserved man; an insomniac with very little
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Terra
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
I ranked this 5 stars not because I felt that any of the stories within this collection was perfect. I don't, and I probably would have ranked any individual story within the collection a 3 or a 4. Maybe a 4.5. Though many of the stories did things I wish more stories would do, particularly with regards to the way Monette explored subtle nuances of a character motivation that other writers might overlook.

No, the real reason I ranked this a 5 was because these ten sometimes-imperfect but always c
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Margaret
My god, this was a good book to read on Hallowe'en. Almost too good, in fact. I finished reading it in daylight, but the atmosphere it created was with me well into the evening.

Kyle Murchison Booth is a museum archivist, bookish, erudite, awkward, and painfully shy. After a reluctant experiment with necromancy, in the collection's first story, "Bringing Helena Back", he finds that he has opened the door to the world of the supernatural, beginning a series of encounters which will bring him into
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Sesana
The Bone Key is actually a series of short stories, all about Kyle Murchison Booth (nobody calls him Kyle) and his encounters with the paranormal. He traces them back to a necromantic rite he foolishly helped a friend perform, which seems to have made him more receptive to strange things.

In her introduction, Sarah Monette says she was inspired by M. R. James and Lovecraft. It shows, mostly in the atmosphere. I was not at all surprised to discover that she had a story published in the anthology L
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Jam
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people that like creepy horror.
Sarah Monette is a thinky writer and this definitely plays to that strength. In the introduction, Monette says that she wanted to write something with the feel of M. R. James and Lovecraft, but that acknwoldged things that are conspicuously absent in James and Lovecraft's works - things like strong women and sexuality.

And she succeeded remarkably well, to the point where I almost don't want to mention it because when I'm reading it, I don't have to think about it. It's a good thing, when you're
...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
I think that a more appropriate shelf for this book would be "Horror (sort of)".

The Bone Key is a book of short stories all themed around the narrator who works for a museum.

This guy is an amazingly dried up, shy stick of a man. At first it's just "there" but eventually i was shaking my head at the character and groaning...

That's not all that changes as you go. The stories in this volume are supposed to an homage to H.P.Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and you can see it. There are clear connect
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Issendai
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
The Bone Key was okay, but I couldn't escape the feeling that I'd read all the stories before. It felt as though the author was new to writing horror and had to get all the basic tropes out of her system before she could move on to inventing new twists. I don't know whether that's true of Monette--she wrote some splendidly horrific moments in Melusine--but it was the lingering impression I was left with.

Not to say it's not a good read. Kyle Murchison Booth is the book's greatest strength, a prof
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hedgehog
Excellent collection of paranormal horror shorts - more on the end of psychological, unsettling horror than the splashy gore kind, which suits me just fine. The frame story in the introduction, complete with footnotes and convincing in-universe analyses of the stories? Super fun. Booth's narrative voice reminded me of Neil Gaiman's default meek-dude-recounting-mindless-horrors narrators, though Monette explicitly namechecks Lovecraft and M.R. James as influences, and I've no doubt Gaiman drew fr ...more
Judy
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable collection of ghost stories. Although the stories stand alone, the narrator, the eccentric and solitary Mr. Kyle Murchison Booth is the same. The tales are creepy and disturbing and yet leave the reader wanting more.
Juushika
Ten stories about Kyle Murchison Booth, a museum archivist with an unlucky talent for encountering the strange and supernatural. The atmosphere is phenomenal, a historical horror vibe which is more cozy that particularly scary. The short fiction format is immensely readable; Booth's eccentricities and precise diction make for a charming, sympathetic narrative. It isn't as directly confrontational re: bigotry as the Lovecraft retellings we've seen in the last few years, but quietly and effectivel ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A sweetly prim museum archivist navigates a series of regretfully supernatural events.

I really liked this series of interconnected short stories with a classic horror bent (as in, 19th- and early 20th-century-style tales). Think Arthur Dent meets Edward Gorey and you won't be too far off.

Recommended for lovers of classic horror.
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Anne
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I lurve Sarah Monette. Full review to come.

4 stars and a for sure re-read in future.
Meredith Katz
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Bone Key by Sarah Monette is a collection of interconnected short stories which begin the adventures of Kyle Murchison Booth, the overall ‘verse of which is The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth. It consists of the first ten stories; of the remaining five, four are not in any collection but can be found available online (The Replacement, White Charles, The Yellow Dressing Gown, To Die For Moonlight) while the fifth can be found in her short story collection, Somewhere Beneath Tho ...more
Riju Ganguly
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I’m as thoroughly enamoured with the writings of M.R. James as one can be, I have had this feeling of incompleteness for quite some time now that the scholarly protagonists featured in his stories are not real, because they are simply too devoid of earthly passions, except fear. On the other hand, his antagonists (including the spectral ones) appear to be more real, since they are full of hatred, avarice, anger, and all other emotions that are on display everywhere in ‘real’ life. One ‘Jam ...more
Armand
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heavily recommend this scrumptious book to all fans of horror, especially those who prefer their fare erudite, cultured, or occult

I have nothing but the highest praise for the author. While her slightly mannered prose hearkens to those piquant horror classics of yore, it is far from being overwrought. Indeed it is quite accessible, and I'm very much impressed by how Ms. Monette managed to marry a charming old world sensibility with a limpid, modern style that makes her stories compulsively re
...more
Wealhtheow
Feb 06, 2009 rated it liked it
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, "Wa ...more
Isidore
Nov 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Discard at once the author's notion that she is retooling Lovecraft and M.R. James: in terms of imaginative reach there's little here that would have strained Mrs. Riddell, and there's no sign of James's startlingly unexpected imagery. It's easier to imagine Monette's pastiches as the work of a solid, second-tier Edwardian craftsman of the Weird.

But if the horrors to be found here are somewhat unambitious, they are laid out intelligently in well-told narratives. "Wait for Me" is particularly goo
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Jamie Collins
This is a collection of creepy, melancholy short stories; a suitable read for the Halloween season. The stories all feature Kyle Murchison Booth, a sad, painfully awkward museum archivist who is beset by ghosts and other monstrous things. The setting is left deliberately vague; I got the impression of a city in New England, perhaps sometime in the 1950’s.

I like Monette’s writing. The overall tone here is subdued, and the first few stories are rather slight. I might have found them unsatisfying o
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Seth Carlson
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019, lol-gay
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brigid Keely
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"The Bone Key" is a deliciously creepy and well written set of short stories in the vein of M. R. James and H. P. Lovecraft. Told from the point of view of painfully shy and fussily overly educated Kyle Murchison Booth, we the reader are privy to the secret dark world that lies just beneath the thin veil of normalcy that most people see. Booth is privy to that dark world as well, to his regret. ...more
Lotta
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started kind of slow, but really grew on me. The MC reminds me much of an unhappier, lonelier Whyborne from the Whyborne and Griffin series. Well written, with a very sad undertone.
Jessica
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked the stories and would be happy to read more--they were scary in the middle and then resolved in a way that calmed me down, so I could actually read them before bed. The Lovecraftian ties were clearer in some stories than others. In the introduction the author mentions wanting to add women and sexuality to the Lovecraft universe, which she does, but I wish she'd taken the same care with the racial and colonialist elements. She Walks in Shadows pushes those social boundaries further.

CW: re
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Kate
I can't tell if these stories are as trite as I think or if I'm just in a bad mood. I like this author's Doctrine of Labyrinths quartet tremendously, and I am definitely in a foul temper, so I think probably it's option b. ...more
Eggp
Solitary nerd
a magnet for bad beasties
the man is catnip.
audrey
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
A cozy, spooky and well-tailored collection of old-fashioned ghost stories, linked by a likeable protagonist, a detailed period setting and a cast of memorable minor characters, written for days.

In the introduction to this collection, Monette states her intent was to create ghost stories in a similar vein to HP Lovecraft and Victorian ghost story writer MR James, except with better characterization, psychosexual tension and feminism. And two of those three aims are met.

The stories are peopled wi
...more
Chloe
I liked this collection of short stories a lot - it's creepy and gothic and a little bit gay (in short, it's just about everything I love).

I happened to start reading this book not too long after finishing another collection of short horror stories, Thomas Ligotti's Tales of a Dead Dreamer & Grimscribe, so it's inevitable that my mind jumps to compare the two, and Monette overall ranks more favorably than Ligotti in my estimation. The two are clearly influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen
...more
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My pseudonym is Katherine Addison. Katherine reviews nonfiction. Sarah reviews fiction. Fair warning: I read very little fiction these days.

I was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the secret cities of the Manhattan Project. I studied English and Classics in college, and have gone on to get my M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature. My first four novels were published by Ace Books. I h
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Other books in the series

Kyle Murchison Booth (6 books)
  • Unnatural Creatures
  • The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2014 Edition
  • The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010
  • Weird Tales 349 - 85th Anniversary Issue
  • Blutmond

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