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The graves lay silently before me. The sleepers within the quiet earth did not rise up to speak to me, and I was grateful. This was my family now, and they made no demands I could not meet.—The Bone Key
Mix MR James, HP Lovecraft, a creepy museum and a closeted gay protagonist who bears an eerie resemblance to Randolph Carter, and what do you get? A series of short stories chronicling the necromantic mysteries of one Kyle Murchison Booth. Taking place in an ambiguous between the wars setting in an equally ambiguous American city, this series of shorts by Sarah Monette follows the hauntingly haunted adventures of the aforementioned protagonist, who relates his misshaps in belabored first person as he watches otherworldly horrors unfold around him.
The series of shorts are all collected in The Bone Key, with the exception of the most recent four, which have yet to be collected into anything (except a limited run chap-book called Unnatural Creatures).
The Bone Key
- Bringing Helena Back
- The Venebretti Necklace
- The Bone Key
- Wait For Me
- Drowning Palmer
- The Inheritance of Barnabas Wilcox
- Elegy For A Demon Lover
- The Wall of Clouds
- The Green Glass Paperweight
- Listening To Bone
- Abusive Parents: This story is written by Sarah Monette, after all. Compared to her other works, Booth gets off light.
- Artifact of Doom: So many.
- Back From the Dead: What else do you think a horror story called Bringing Helena Back is going to be about?
- Brown Note: The driving force behind the plot of The Yellow Dressing Gown.
- Celibate Hero: Light on the hero. Heavy on the celibate.
- Crapsack World
- Creepy Basement: Between their basement and the stacks, The Samuel Mather Parrington Museum has this in spades.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ms Coburn in spades.
- Death By Origin Story: Booth's parents.
- Deceased Parents Are the Best: Booth's parents were apparently nice and loving people until they kicked it, and left him with a pair of abusive caretakers.
- Dysfunction Junction: This trope, consisting of Death By Origin Story parents and abusive legal guardians, has left Booth unable to make lasting connections with other people, speak with any degree of confidence, or brave any kind of prolonged social interaction.
- Downer Ending: All of them. But none so much as Elegy for a Demon Lover.
- Evil Elevator: The Wall Of Clouds
- Evil Is Not a Toy
- Evil Sorcerer: Booth could easily become one, if he doesn't watch himself. This is something of which he is eerily aware.
- Eyeless Face: Wait For Me.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Booth and Blaine. Kind of. Not really.
- Gothic Horror: Influenced by rather than straight-up is, but when taking major inspiration from MR James, it's inevitable.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Booth has literally no friends, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the occult.
- In the Blood: Family curses suck.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: The new introduction to the second edition of 'The Bone Key' includes a lengthy discussion covering each short story, written by the current senior archivist of Rare Books at the Parrington Museum, now that 'Dr Monette' has released the 'Kyle Murchison Booth Papers' to the public.
- Long Title: The Necromantic Mysteries Of Kyle Murchison Booth.
- Lovecraft Lite: Arguably.
- Magnetic Medium
- Necromancer: Hmm, I wonder.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The stacks.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: No touching at all, if Booth can help it. Notable exception in Elegy To A Demon Lover.
- Our Ghouls Are Creepier: The Venebretti Necklace.
- Our Vampires Are Different: The World Without Sleep.
- Plot Armor: Being the first person narrator, Booth will probably survive every story until the last one, the emotional trauma he incurs while doing so notwithstanding.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Used several times, but The Green Glass Paperweight and The Venebretti Necklace stand out.
- Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Though one of the driving ambitions behind this series was an attempt to fix the myriad of problems (notably racism and sexism) found within Lovecraft, almost all of the female characters are still evil ghosts. With notable exceptions-- The Venebretti Necklace (sort of), The Replacement (which could be interpreted as specifically addressing the issue of having an endless string of female victim/ghost characters), and The World Without Sleep-- the series tends to score between a 1 and a 4 on the scale, depending on the story in question.
- Supernatural Fiction: Well, duh.
- Surprisingly-Sudden Death: The Green Paperweight.
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Booth bitterly regrets reading some of the books he has, and worries what will happen when his vow not to put that knowledge to use fails.
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: Where Booth got the knowledge he so regrets having. In one case, it's apparently so bad that Booth refuses to reveal the name of the book to the reader.
- Unexpected Inheritance: The Inheritance of Barnabas Willcox (duh) and The Bone Key.
- Unreliable Narrator: Booth sure hates and is jealous of Helena, huh? Good thing she's definitely evil.
- Was Once a Man: The Venebretti Necklace, The Replacement. Arguably inverted in White Charles.
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?: Booth certainly couldn't tell you.
- You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: You look like you've just ran up three flights of stairs to avoid seeing a ghost!