Nocturnes by John Connolly

Published: February 28th 2007
Goodreads badgePublisher: Hodder
Pages: 486
Format: Book
Genre: Short stories/Horror/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

 A dark, daring, utterly haunting anthology of lost lovers and missing children, predatory demons, and vengeful ghosts. In these stories, Connolly ratchets up the tension to almost unbearable — and irresistible — levels. Nocturnes is a deliciously chilling collection from “one of the best thriller writers we have” (Harlan Coben)

John Connolly’s short stories in this book are dark and magical and monstrous, in so many different ways. All monsters are different, not all monsters can be seen, and there is always something lurking in the dark. There are 17 stories in this collection, each of them revealing something terrifying and eerie. The variety Connolly comes up with are amazing, and the fact we do not always find out what exactly is hiding in the shadows is what adds to the delight. What isn’t told leaves a lot to your own imagination to fill in the gaps, and what is told is just haunting enough to stay with you even as you move onto the next story.

With the opening story, The Cancer Cowboy, you know that these stories may not be entirely pleasant or uplifting, but with the other stories varying from being less dark and tragic to being simply eerie, or on occasion humorously tragic, you are given a wide variety in which to challenge your nerves and keep you awake at night.

Connolly writes with a wonderful descriptive simplicity. We are given details and basic information, but there are things we aren’t told as well. What we are told is what we need to be told for the story to progress and for us to understand. Anything else is revealed gradually in conversation, or implied through something else, or we don’t need to know it at all. The joy of the short story, and the art I suppose, is trying to capture a life within less space than normally provided. Connolly gives us characters that are as developed as they have to be for the roles and situations they are placed in. You do not always need to know everything about them, but we are not left with any husks of characters that we have no sympathy for and for what is happening to them or around them.

The title Nocturnes comes from one of the stories within the book, a story about things that come out in the dark, that haunt you, and hide in the shadows; the very name suitable to cover the nature of these stories. Nocturnes can be defined as “a work of art dealing with evening or night”, something these stories do, mixed together with the creepy and scary.  Connolly draws you in as you read with the mystery and unknown, but also compassion for the characters involved; of the innocent parties, the guilty, and even an admiration for the monsters. The extent of what he has created is of such variety it must be said it isn’t all darkness and shadows, but the daylight monsters are no less unnerving than anything that Connolly creates in the night time shadows I assure you.

One stand out addition was the Charlie Parker novella The Reflecting Eye towards the end. Even this manages to suit the theme Connolly has going rather well. Charlie Parker is from Connolly’s detective series, with this novella being between the fourth and the fifth in the series.  I have yet to read any of the Charlie Parker novels; I suppose with this novella I have had a taste now to reignite my desire to start reading them.

From the man who wrote the beauty of The Book of Lost Things, seeing the darker side was very revealing. The Book of Lost Things had its own darkness certainly, but the darkness and monsters hiding inside Nocturnes, whether they are treated with a distracting light heartedness like some, a mysteriousness that remains not entirely revealed, or one that brings a twist, is something that I found very exciting, and a wonderful surprise. Perhaps it was because we don’t always know what is happening, we only see snippets of events and what happens, or perhaps it is because it shows that darkness can breed anything and anywhere, and no one is exempt from its talons.

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