I bought this collection, edited by Marie O’Regan, a short while ago and I’m glad I did. I liked that the book celebrated the talents of female authors. I’ve read some great horrors and thrillers in the past written by women, and this book introduced me to new writers I hadn’t come across before. However, I found The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women (it’s a bit of a mouthful) a mixed bag; some of the stories were good, others were not so good.
For this blog post, I am going to challenge myself to review 25 stories in 25 words each.
1. Field of the Dead by Kim Lakin-Smith
I don’t remember the plot – I think it was about a haunted medieval town? It wasn’t particularly scary and the characters had anachronistically modern names.
2. Collect Call by Sarah Pinborough
It’s about a boy abandoned in the desert. This story was eerier than the last, and more like what I’d expected. Verdict: A decent read
3. Dead Flowers by a Roadside by Kelley Armstrong
A short but sweet tale about grief, loss and melancholy that makes good use of flashbacks and characters even within a short amount of space,
4. The Shadow in the Corner by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
A classic Victorian ghost story about haunted houses and rumoured deaths. It was suspenseful, shocking, well-written and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s definitely one of my favourites.
5. The Madam of the Narrow Houses by Caitlin R. Kiernan
This was one of the weirder stories in the collection, about ghosts who visit the same woman for physical intimacy. I don’t remember much else.
6. The Lost Ghost by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman
Two women recount a paranormal experience of a ghost searching desperately for her mother. This story was entertaining, slightly scary, but a little sad too.
7. The Ninth Witch by Sarah Langan
Not a typical ‘ghost story’, yet a good read. Stylistically similar to Angela Carter, this was a gruesome story about murder, incest, and dark magic.
8. Sister, Shhh… by Elizabeth Massie
A thrilling short story about a girl’s escape from an abusive religious cult. I liked the the paranormal elements and the horror of the cult.
9. The Fifth Bedroom by Alex Bell
A decent story about a haunted house and the lingering presence of its previous occupant. It was okay, but I didn’t find it especially remarkable.
10. Scairt by Alison Littlewood
A story similar to her novel, The Unquiet House, as children begin to mysteriously disappear from a village after possible ghost sightings. Verdict: Fairly interesting.
11. Seeing Nancy by Nina Allan
A short but entertaining thriller about a journalist investigating a ghostly presence, after learning about a murder which took place in her house years prior.
12. The Third Person by Lisa Tuttle
I didn’t understand the plot. It was a bit weird and included some ghost … erotica? I’m not sure what the point was. No thanks.
13. Freeze Out by Nancy Holder
A family start seeing the ghost of their dead mother. It was an okay, but not exceptional, story in which nothing stood out to me.
14. Return by Yvonne Navarro
I really liked this one. It was a well-written story which touched on some taboos and revealed the dark secrets of a creepily dysfunctional family.
15. Let Loose by Mary Cholmondeley
This was an enjoyable story written with true Victorian flair. A fantastic paranormal horror about an evil spirit rumoured to have escaped from a crypt.
16. Another One in from the Cold by Marion Arnott
I thought this one was average and not particularly scary, as the ghost of a war veteran pops up, but then doesn’t do very much.
17. My Moira by Lilith Saintcrow
A bit of a convoluted storyline; it was about protecting a magic Seal in order to help ghosts, but this wasn’t my cup of tea.
18. Forget Us Not by Nancy Kilpatrick
This was a first-person narrative, reminiscing about the loss of her dead husband and missing or dead cat. It was a bit sad, but uneventful.
19. Front Row Rider by Muriel Gray
A fairly entertaining story following the aftermath of a rollercoaster ride. I wasn’t sure who was a ghost and who was alive, which was fun.
20. God Grant That She Lye Still by Cynthia Asquith
This was another older story (you can tell by the writing style) about ghosts, possessions, and haunted houses. It was enjoyable and well-written – another favourite.
21. The Phantom Coach by Amelia B. Edwards
A vividly descriptive tale about a man rescued from a storm by a passing coach, said to have crashed and killed its occupants years beforehand…
22. The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell
A nurse recounts a scary experience which affected a girl in her care. However, it was difficult to follow, so I didn’t finish this story.
23. Among the Shoals Forever by Gail Z. Martin
It was a weird story about some magic hunters with bizarre names who target and destroy down supernatural beings – I think? I did not finish.
24. Afterward by Edith Wharton
A couple search their house for ghosts, not realising who are real and who are ghosts until a long time afterwards – a fun, eerie idea.
25. Silver Music by Gaie Sebold
An interesting modern story in the style of a Victorian murder mystery, about the fear of the murder victim’s ghost communicating supernaturally with the detective.
To sum up, there were some clear hits and misses within The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women.
I’m not sure I’d describe all 25 stories as ‘chilling tales’ like the front cover would suggest. Still, I appreciated the way this collection has enabled me to read a variety of styles and a variety of female authors.