By Dave Shelton
Available now from David Fickling Books (Scholastic)
THIRTEEN CHAIRS starts with Jack, a young boy who has entered an (apparently) abandoned house to find a room filled with thirteen chairs, thirteen candles, and twelve people. So he sits down, and then they each start to tell stories.
Each of them tells a ghost story. Some, like "Let Me Sleep," are more traditional stories. Others are set in the here and now, with taxis and cell phones. I rather liked that touch, as it is harder to find ghost stories set in the present. The tension builds nicely throughout the book. I found the ending stories much scarier. There are also interludes between each story, where the people talk to each other and Jack grows increasingly uncomfortable, ever more worried about more than the fact he'll soon have to tell a story himself.
I wouldn't say that THIRTEEN CHAIRS has twists, but the truth of what is going on in that old house does unfold at a nice pace. There's a good balance of the frame story having a point and direction while still giving the individual stories their spotlights.
Each story opens with a woodcut-style illustration (done by the author, I believe). I enjoyed all of the miniature ghost/horror stories, although some did particularly stand out. The macabre "The Red Tree" was a true delight, as was "Unputdownable," which has an ending that bodes ill for anyone that comes into contact with a certain piece of literature.
If you like dark tales, and stories that build so that you start to feel a nice frisson of terror, then pick up THIRTEEN CHAIRS. It's an excellent quick read with a decent amount of re-read value.