The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral by Robert Westall

The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral: Two Stories of the Supernatural - Orrin Grey, Robert Westall

 

Originally published back in 1991, the title novella is one creepy story about a steeplejack working on the towers and steeple of Muncaster Cathedral. This edition also contains the story "Brangwyn Gardens", which is entirely new to American audiences. 

 

Joe Clarke wondered why he had the fortune to get this good paying job, (the repairs to the cathedral). How could everyone else not be available? But as so many of us do, he set aside his questions and set to work. Get 'er done, right? As it turns out though, those other steeplejacks turned down this job for a good reason-one that Joe is soon to discover. 

 

This story reminded me a lot of the style of M.R. James. It's literary and beautifully written, for one. It's also a type of cozy horror story, heavy on atmosphere. Exactly the kind that M. R. James used to write. As mentioned by Orrin Grey in the foreword, one thing that sets this apart from a James story is that "Stones" is told from the point of view of a regular Joe; a working class man, rather than some dusty old antiquarian. I felt like that helped make this story more accessible. I, too, am a working class Joe. (Josephine?)

 

The second story was distinctly different from the first, but equally enjoyable. In fact, I might have enjoyed this one just a smidge more.  Another ghost story, set not long after WWII:  A man moves into a rooming house and discovers a diary written by a young woman during the war. While bringing home the insanity of blitzkriegs and war, in general, it also brought home the poignancy of being lonely, young and out on your own. 

 

In summary, this was an awesome collection of two novellas that can be read in an afternoon. And look at that, it's afternoon now. You still have time. What are you waiting for?

 

Highly recommended to fans of ghost stories, especially those of M.R. James.

 

*A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review. This is it!*