Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Bloomsbury • 249 pages • £6.99
As Gaiman’s introduction explains, books of short stories are great: if you don’t like one tale, along comes another. It’s a good philosophy, but he’s selling himself short – there’s nothing here to dislike. More of a problem is that if you’re a fan you may have read many of these stories before. But the price is still worth it for the odd gem you hadn’t already discovered.
The highlight is “The Witch’s Headstone”, a compelling story in its own right but also a chapter from upcoming novel The Graveyard Book. It tells the tale of Bod, a child brought up by ghosts and coming into contact with the living world for the first time. Other standouts are the haunting “October in the Chair” and “Instructions”, a poem advising what to do when trapped in a fairytale. “The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds” is also worth a mention, combining hard-boiled detective fiction with the world of nursery rhymes. It’s what Gaiman does best – a spellbinding mix of myth and modern.