Monday, 11 January 2016

The Bureau of Them, by Cate Gardner (Spectral Press) | review

Glynn has been dead for thirteen months, twelve days, seven hours and some minutes, and Katy can’t stop missing him, can’t move on with her life. She doesn’t want to. He walked out in front of a coach, so there’s no doubt about his passing, but she thinks she sees him watching her, and these brief glimpses lead her to an abandoned office building, where dust and shadows move with uncanny life. Glynn has become part of this office of lost souls, the bureau of them, and they are looking for new recruits! As in previous books like In the Broken Birdcage of Kathleen Fair and Nowhere Hall Cate Gardner creates an eerie atmosphere that serves the story well, and Katy’s grief is painful to watch. For me it was a bit disappointing that there wasn’t more bureaucracy in the novella, the title conjuring up visions of weird, secret officialdom working behind the scenes of reality, and that isn’t really what it’s about, the office here being more of a base than where the work is done. (I’m trying to avoid giving too much away.) The novella’s spell is broken a bit by a couple of jarring production problems: “may” being used instead of “might” all the way through, and (in the ebook at least) unspaced hyphens being used in place of dashes, which leaves the reader trying to make sense of odd hyphenates (e.g. “Sounds echoed from within the cinema-tinny”). Definitely worth reading, though. No other writer I’ve read is producing books that remind me so very much of my own bad dreams. If Cate Gardner’s next book is about being lost in a spooky school without a timetable you’ll know she’s stolen my dream journal. Stephen Theaker ***

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