November 19, 2020

Jonathan Sims: "Thirteen Storeys" (ARC Review)

Title: Thirteen Storeys  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Jonathan Sims [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Afterlife, Supernatural, Horror
Year: 2020
Age: I shelved this one as Adult, but it can be read by a 16 y.o., and even by a mature, not overly impressionable 14 y.o.
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Engaging format. A few interesting/unexpected twists on classic haunting tropes.
Cons: Not all the characters are likeable (thought that's kind of the point). The ending, while vivid, is less impactful than the single stories and a bit too convenient.
WARNING! Haunting (ha!) imagery. Gore. Violence.
Will appeal to: Fans of supernatural/horror stories with a mystery edge and a social justice background.

Blurb: A dinner party is held in the penthouse of a multimillion-pound development. All the guests are strangers - even to their host, the billionaire owner of the building. None of them know why they were selected to receive his invitation. Whether privileged or deprived, they share only one thing in common - they've all experienced a shocking disturbance within the building's walls. By the end of the night, their host is dead, and none of the guests will say what happened. His death has remained one of the biggest unsolved mysteries - until now. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Gollancz/Orion Publishing Group for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way. Also, in case you don't know, the author is the writer and narrator for the Magnus Archives podcast.


Thirteen Storeys is, for all purposes, a novel comprised of a series of short stories, each one focusing on one of the tenants of a reclusive billionaire's building, with only the last chapter bringing the whole cast together. I have to admit that short stories can be hit or miss for me, but when there's a connection of sorts between them and they ultimately form a bigger picture, I'm hooked. In this case, I'm also pleased to say that most of the stories, while building on familiar haunting tropes, either put a spin on them or bring something new to the table. Granted, not all the characters are what I would call memorable, and very few of them are genuinely likeable (though most aren't supposed to be); but the crescendo of tension and the clever (if sometimes little) twists in their stories (not to mention, the interplay of associations between them - though most you only manage to catch on a second read) largely make up for that. Also, while all the stories end with a hook to the last chapter, they're remarkably self-contained - especially since the basic reason behind the hauntings becomes apparent early on (but the final chapter will still hold a few surprises in that department). [...]


If the single stories (or, well, storeys) hold their own quite strongly, the book is less successful in its picking up the threads. While the tension and horror in the tenants chapters were handled gracefully (OK, it may sound like a weird adverb to use, but until the real shit hits the fan, even the horror has a certain finesse here), the social commentary that permeates the last one is more in your face, and while I commend Sims for making a stand (or a point at least), the final denouement could have used more subtlety. Also, even for a book with the supernatural at its core, what happens in the end requires some suspension of disbelief, especially because a certain event is a bit convenient and the rules are unclear - and yes, even the supernatural should have rules, or anything goes. That being said (and the less the better, since it would be so easy to spoil the whole thing), Thirteen Storeys has a lot going for it, and everyone who's into supernatural/psychological horror (and ghosts!) will get a kick out of this story.

P.S.: I know we're not supposed to notice typos and such in an ARC (and to be honest, there were only a handful here), and even when a side character had her name changed for the space of a paragraph, I didn't pay it much heed...but then I stumbled onto the usual instance of "who's" instead of "whose" ("Who's skeleton?"), and that I couldn't unsee 😣.

For more Adult books click here.
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For more Afterlife books click here.


  1. I feel like 3.5 is a pretty solid rating from you, even if it is rounded down, so I'm pleased about that. I'm really looking forward to reading this, though I AM worried, as well. :| I'm hoping that I'll enjoy it at least as much as you did, especially because next week is the last TMA episode before a six week break, so I'll need something good in the meantime! Great review! :)

    1. Yep, it's solid enough. Let's say that, had I bought this one, I wouldn't have regretted spending my money 😉. I hope you'll like it MORE than I did though! It's a shame you haven't been approved for this one (yet?), what with you being such a huge fan of TMA!

  2. I am not a big fan of short stories, but I appreciate that these are tied together in some way, and I rather like the concept.

  3. I kind of like the sound of this. I like short stories (especially those that tie together) and even novellas lately. And this has an intriguing premise. I do hate it when suspension of disbelief is hard, though. Still, sounds like it has promise.

    That cover!

    1. Haha, I know! the cover is great! but I think you might like the story as well. I know you read a lot of mysteries/thrillers, and this one has a huge supernatural vibe on top of that.

  4. Short story collections are always hot or miss but I do enjoy when the find a way to tie together in some way.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. Those are pretty much the only kind I like!


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