Sunday 11 April 2010

The Haunted Bridge

First things first, thank you for all your lovely birthday wishes! And now onto another review...

Despite having a card index system of all my books (yes, sorry, I do) I am usually a disorganised person. Just ask my family, who claim to love me, disorganisation and all. Some bloggers have very complex systems with the books they receive for reviewing - shelved in date order, say, or kept in a separate part of the house from their other books. I sort of have a shelf for them, but the shelf was filled about a year ago, and the rest get put wherever I can find some space. And so, of course, I often forget I have them. Ironically, something placed on my 'must read very soon' shelf (only it's not a shelf, it's a bit of my desk next to a CD player and a mug-in-a-jumper of pens) is likely to be overlooked for a long time.

This is all a long run-up to saying that, somehow, it took me ages to read Jane Gordon-Cumming's The Haunted Bridge and Other Strange Tales of the Oxford Canal, despite the fact that it appealed as soon as it dropped through the letterbox. Jane G-C, you may remember, wrote the funtastic [spelling error deliberate on my part, in an attempt to be youthful and hip] A Proper Family Christmas, which I reviewed back here. This time she has turned her attentions to ghost stories...

Now, if your first response to the words 'ghost stories' is - like me - to curl up under a duvet and repeat happy thoughts to yourself over and over again, then fear not. The stories in this collection - well, except 'Landscape of Ghosts', the final one in the book - aren't scary. They're interesting and fun and send a tiny little shiver down your spine, but not in a hide-behind-the-curtains way. This coming from a man who was incapable of watching Scream 2 - and, indeed, the spookier episodes of Doctor Who. So, fear not... and read on, as Mr. Bennet would say.

Each story is nice and short, quick impact, and takes place along the Oxford canal. There is a nice touch (suggested by Colin Dexter, no less) of a map in the front, indicating where each story takes place, and the collection is organised geographically - moving up the river.

My favourite story is 'Flying With The Angels', which takes place at Shipton-on-Cherwell (drove past there today on a return visit to Jane's Teas) which has parallel stories of a Victorian girl and a modern woman travelling along the same track on Christmas Eve in 1874 and 'today' respectively. I wanted to type out a section for you, but I think any chunk would actually spoil the impact, so I shan't...

All in all, this is a fun little book - especially for anybody who knows the canal or Oxford, it would make a great gift or souvenir. And Jane Gordon-Cumming is a natural storyteller who, thankfully, cannot resist a light and humorous touch even when she's writing scary stories. Take note, Stephen King, take note.

(If you want to hunt down a copy, try Amazon or, even better, Jane G-C's website directly...)


  1. Ooh, I missed your birthday! Another April baby! Happy birthday belatedly.

  2. I seem to have missed your birthday too, but glad to hear you had a happy one. I think I may have made you self-conscious about the card index, though I'm glad to hear you are not as organised as that makes you sound.


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