Sarah Monette wrote that both Lovecraft and M.R. James were major influences on The Bone Key: The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth and it shows. Although to be fair, both of those authors cast very, very long shadows.
In a nutshell, Monette took the standard Antiquarian protagonist of either of those authors and fleshed them out into a deeper and possibly more realistic figure. Booth is a brilliant and talented archivist at the creepy Parrington Museum. He is also awkward, painfully socially-isolated and severely emotionally damaged.
This actually plays very well into Booth being the protagonist of horror stories. He is very vulnerable and often overwhelmed by his nightmarish circumstances. He is constantly aware of the danger and uncertainty around him and barely has the courage to do anything.
Of course, that only works if the stories are at all scary. Fortunately, Monette does an excellent job combing the visceral and the unknown. We almost never get a full picture of what is going on and, sometimes, we get a lot less. The world of the supernatural is much bigger than Booth and he is unable to forget that.
And it tends to be very personal. As opposed to cosmic horror that doesn’t care about humanity, these horrors are very close and seem to really want human suffering. A hateful spirit guarding a necklace, a demon that feeds on the life force of exactly one person at a time, a hotel that seems to kill very selectively. It’s all very intimate.
What truly makes the anthology work (and I do think it works) is that it is a character study of Booth. He is the last of a cursed line. The first story has him weak enough to dabble in necromancy which has marked him so the restless dead and such are drawn to him. Bad things happen around him and to him. How he copes or fails to cope is the driving force.
The end result is a dark but engaging journey. I liked it.