This haunted house anthology from Egaeus
set writers a serious challenge. Is it possible to find new and interesting things to say about the theme? So far I'd say the answer was a qualified yes. It's impossible to be wholly new because, in the end, the house must be haunted. But most of the writers whose stories I've enjoyed so far have come up with arresting ideas, themes, imagery. Lynda Rucker, another familiar name to ST readers, has certainly found a disturbing twist on the familiar idea of a sealed room.
The story is set in Dublin, at a Thanksgiving party of American expats and their Irish friends. Among them are Wendy and Carrie, who recently left the city for Berlin. Carrie, unhappy with the move, finds herself leaning against a partly-concealed doorway. Drink has been taken and soon the sealed room is opened. The immediate result is a sickening stench. This heralds more disturbing events, as it becomes clear that the house is no longer a mundane Dublin abode. If it ever was.
Beneath the straightforward plot lurk strange complexities, but there are no spoilers here. I don't suppose Lynda Rucker set out to be the modern (or postmodern) Shirley Jackson, but it seems to be the role her gifts have assigned her. Like Jackson, she offers economical stories peopled characters who are realistically unhappy and sometimes just downright odd. Her horrors, as in this tale, are subtle but memorable. She seldom, if ever, puts a foot wrong but never gives the sense of trying too hard for a perfect result.