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The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting TalesReleased: 2013

Kate Mosse’s flair for penning absorbing fiction speaks for itself: her Languedoc trilogy sold millions of copies globally, and the first novel of the series, Labyrinth, has been adapted into a mini-series starring the likes of Tom Felton and Jessica Brown-Findlay. Mosse’s new collection of chilling short stories is steeped in English and French folklore, and explores several stunning locations across many periods of time.

The Mistletoe Bride is a somewhat disappointing opener. The beautifully romantic plot and the ancient family house have great potential for a tale of terror, but the story is as lifeless as the withering corpse-bride who narrates it. Red Letter Day manages to deliver what The Mistletoe Bride does not: suspense, uncertainty and surprise. After suffering a great personal loss, the protagonist Claire travels to a remote French village in order to visit an old fortress that is rich in historic battles and bloodshed, believing she can finally be at peace there. Claire’s adventure, like many of the adventures in this collection, is crawling with historical fact and elements of fairytale and folklore.

The spooky ritual that takes place in The Drowned Village, Daphne’s frightening visions in The House on the Hill, and Sophia’s unexpected journey in The Yellow Scarf are satisfyingly eerie, uniting the living and the dead in very profound ways. Duet is perhaps the most unnerving and genuinely scary of Mosse’s offerings. The perplexing and dynamic dialogue leads to an alarming conclusion that doesn’t involve the supernatural, which is darker and more spine-tingling than ghosts and haunted houses.

Mosse’s vast imagination is enchanting, and she has a great knack for entwining the sadness of forgotten past events, real and fictional, with her modern characters’ problems. The array of stories may be rooted in different settings across space and time, but they often have one characteristic in common: ordinary reality being touched and enlightened by the extraordinary.

What makes this assortment so special is that many of the creepy encounters don’t always touch the characters’ lives in a bad way. On the contrary, some of them find the guidance and direction they need when they cross paths with the supernatural. If you don’t fancy dressing up and braving the cruel British weather this Halloween, get into your favourite pyjamas, curl up by the fire with some junk food and immerse yourself in these superb tales.

★★★★

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