Pay the Ghost

October 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

ghostPay the Ghost by Tim Lebbon


Lebbon is, apparently, well known as a horror writer. My only experience with his fiction was through Star Wars, so I was surprised to learn this about him. A book buddy of mine mentioned liking this story in a review of another of Lebbon’s works, and since it’s close to Halloween, and I still like a good horror tale, I decided to give this a read.

Moll’s father lost her on Halloween when she was six years old. The weight of that loss crushed him, enough that he lost his wife, his job, and any hope that Moll would ever return. Almost a year after her disappearance, his wife returns, claiming Moll is alive, and she knows where she is. Now, her father might learn the answer to her disappearance, as well as the answer to the question Moll asked that night a year ago: “Will you pay the ghost?”

Lebbon blends the horror of losing a child with the horrors of the unseen very well. The story is brief — 27 pages — but a lot happens during those pages, plot- and character-wise. It’s remarkable how dense the story is, though it reads quickly and easily. The reunion of the family dynamic, such as it is, represents all that the father has experienced since losing Moll, and when he comes out of the other end of his ordeal, he is no better off than he was before. He may, in fact, be worse off.

Pay the Ghost is a grim story, with no easy answers or happy endings. I understand this has been made into a movie, but I can’t see how the story as it’s written here would work in the longer form. Stories with endings like these are easier to accept in short stories, but longer forms need more complete conclusions. As it is, Pay the Ghost is an excellent example of a horror story, and encourages me to find one of his horror novels.


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