Blair's Reviews > The Strange Casebook

The Strange Casebook by Syd Moore
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bookshelves: 2018-release, netgalley, ghosts-and-horror, read-on-kindle, short-stories

I haven't read any of the other books in Syd Moore's Essex Witch Museum series, and I wondered if that would make this collection of short stories impenetrable to me. After reading it, my conclusion is: I think readers familiar with the series will get the most out of this, but it's by no means impossible to enjoy it as standalone book. It's a quick (under 100 pages) and fun read containing six tales of ghosts, horror and strange happenings.

The Strange Casebook begins with a couple of brief and enjoyable stories that make it easy to get into. 'Death Becomes Her' is about a police officer who is more closely acquainted with death than anyone might suspect. In 'Snowy' we meet a widow and her numerous cats, who aren't quite what they seem.

Although I wasn't sure why several pages were wasted on establishing how much of a dick the narrator is, 'Madness in A Coruña' nevertheless stands out as the high point of the book. Having recently divorced, a man visits an old friend in the Spanish city of A Coruña, where he hopes to drink and socialise and go to a concert. But, while killing some time waiting for his friend, he is caught up in a disturbing incident on the beach instead. This is a really atmospheric tale and, of the six in this collection, has the most individual appeal. There's something timeless about it; it would be perfectly at home in any horror anthology. I was only disappointed the narrator didn't get a more grisly comeuppance... but then I suppose he wouldn't be telling his story.

In contrast, 'She Saw Three Ships' was my least favourite and, I think, suffered the most from my lack of familiarity with the Essex Witch Museum books. Ethel-Rose spends the night in a cottage on the Cornish coast, having travelled on ahead of her family to clean the place, and witnesses a bizarre and gruesome scene. I found it distracting that I couldn't figure out when this was supposed to be set. Ethel-Rose is described as a young woman, yet her thoughts and inner voice seem like they belong to someone much older. I assume this must be because the story has a historical setting, but the time period is never clarified. The plot wasn't engaging enough to override my confusion. Unsatisfying.

'Jocelyn's Story' is a dark and twisted little tale that reminded me of Shirley Jackson. A woman, Rita, is watching her ex-husband seduce another woman with a startling level of enthusiasm. What's the story behind this scene? Rita will tell us – but there's more to her account than meets the eye (as you might gather if you take note of the title).

'The House on Savage Lane' is a nice bit of grotesque to round off the book. Slight Angela Carter vibes to this one, and a suitably ghoulish ending.

I received an advance review copy of The Strange Casebook from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Reading Progress

September 26, 2018 – Shelved
October 8, 2018 – Started Reading
October 8, 2018 –
page 35
October 8, 2018 – Finished Reading

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