cover image Muckross Abbey

Muckross Abbey

Sabina Murray. Black Cat, $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5748-5

Ghosts haunt this smart if repetitive collection from Murray (The Human Zoo). In “Apartment 4D,” a highlight, the 20-something narrator becomes obsessed with the strange and possibly spectral behavior of a single mother and daughter who live down the hall from her. The equally strong “Remote Control” involves a vacationing man and his wife, who are irked by the TV in their room, which switches on every night at two a.m. Here and elsewhere, a ghost ends up shaping the proceedings. Even the dialogue-driven “First Cause,” which has a less paranormal vibe than the others and mainly involves a couple’s argument about their unhappiness, introduces a ghost. Over time, unfortunately, the formula loses its impact. After the protagonist of “The Third Boy” gets locked out of her home, for instance, it’s not hard to suspect that the unsettling neighbor who takes her in may not be fully human. Still, on their own, Murray’s gothic stories pulsate with ornate prose (“The house was so silent that one understood how quiet and still could be synonyms”). Each story has plenty of spookiness and intelligence, though with diminishing returns. (Mar.)