Boroughs of the Dead

Boroughs of the Dead: New York City Ghost StoriesBoroughs of the Dead: New York City Ghost Stories by Andrea Janes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This slim, charming volume is a given to delight fans of spooky stories, but its New York City connection is, for me at least, the special ingredient that makes this collection stand out. Janes, who also runs a ghost tour company in NYC, keeps the tone light even when things get dark in these ten tales, many of which make satisfying use of New York City history and locales. My favorites include “A Fitting Tribute,” in which the spoiled daughter of a wealthy family finds herself unwilling to share the spotlight with her newly arrived aunt; “The General Slocum,” a favorite for obvious reasons, in which Janes pins the historical tragedy on a familiar Germanic legend; “The End,” which unearths a chilling connection between classic mystery authors Ann Radcliffe, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie; and possibly my favorite of the bunch, “The Northern Dispensary,” which deftly combines the real-life medical landmark where Edgar Allan Poe was once treated, and which used to provide dental services, with Poe’s own teeth-obsessed short story “Berenice.”

The stories are short and sparsely told, and could probably use some fleshing out in parts, but in truth there’s also something charmingly reminiscent of the classic ghost stories of M.R. James and Ambrose Bierce in their brevity. I hope to see more fiction from Janes in the future, where I expect she will have a fuller feast for us. But for now, BOROUGHS OF THE DEAD makes an excellent appetizer.

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