By December 24, 2009 0 Comments Read More →


If you are inclined to celebrate Christmas based on Victorian England’s standards, you need to find a nice cozy ghost story to read around the fire. While initially this may seem a bit strange, remember the basic elements of A Christmas Carol by Dickens.  Any tradition that gives humanity a work of fiction like The Turn of the Screw by Henry James can’t be all bad.

On the other hand, if Clarence had just let George Bailey drown or little Ralphie’s Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle really had put his eye out, we might not have such a warm fuzzy feeling about watching these Christmas classics with the family. 

Either way, I ventured in the horror/ghost story genre for Christmas and read Isis by Douglas Clegg.  Not unlike James’s classic, this is a novella.  Not only that, it is wonderfully illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne which means its real length is far shorter than the one hundred thirteen pages that make up the book.

The plot involves a young woman named Iris Catherine Villiers who chooses to put her self interest ahead of the common good after the death of someone she loves.  The book deals with her guilt, her hubris, and the power of love.  Readers get a creepy old Cornish mansion, a mad man locked in the attic, and some scary ghosts.  Readers also get a lesson in what is important when your own self-interests may have dire consequences.

I think this novella would make a great Christmas time read for some book groups.  I know many groups do not like to meet at this time of year because there is no time to read the book while preparing for the holidays.  No problem here–this is a one night in front of the roaring fire kind of book. 

So here is wishing everyone a creepy Holiday season.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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