Review: Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton
I hadn’t heard of Dave Shelton before he was announced as the British Books Challenge Author of the Month for April, but I decided to check out Thirteen Chairs when I saw that they had it on the library catalogue.
A collection of thirteen ghost stories masquerading as a novel, Thirteen Chairs isn’t a very scary book. This might be because it’s aimed at a slightly young audience, or it might be because I’m not easily frightened, but it disappointed me a little bit. The premise is very good – a young boy explores a house which is rumoured to be haunted, discovering a room containing thirteen chairs filled by twelve people, each of whom tell a spooky story – but the quality of the stories fluctuates wildly.
The first few short stories are bland. Let Me Sleep is painfully average, Oswald has hardly any atmosphere and The Wrong Side of the Road is predictable, although there’s a good moral to that tale. However, things pick up in the middle of the collection: The Red Tree has an extremely strong narrative voice, Tick, Tick, Tick… is a tad too open-ended but is a less traditional ghost story, while Beneath the Surface is a painfully honest exploration of loss from the perspective of a young child.
A couple of the stories are awfully farfetched – namely The Patchwork Sailor and Razor – but there are a few that deserve to be expanded into full-length novels (The Girl in the Red Coat, Unputdownable and Snowstorms, respectively).
However, the plot that weaves throughout is blatantly obvious from the start, and I found myself rolling my eyes at the reveal of the ‘twist’ at the end of the book. Again, a good idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired.
Thirteen Chairs is an extremely fast read – I read it in a couple of hours, and found myself flying through each of the stories – but it’s not the most satisfactory book of ghostly tales that you’ll ever encounter.
If you’re interested in learning more about Thirteen Chairs, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
Are you a fan of spooky stories, or are they just too scary for you?