31 Shots of Shock: #5 – ‘The Specialist’s Hat’ by Kelly Link

31 Shots of Shock *Title: The Specialist’s Hat by Kelly Link
Date Read: 05 October 2009
Available Online?: YES – on Kelly Link’s own website. (although Rob read this story from Kelly Link’s published collection, Pretty Monsters (Canongate Books))
Briefly: Twins Samantha and Claire are staying with their historian father at Eight Chimneys, the former home of poet Charles Cheatham Rash. The father is somewhat eccentric and leaves the girls to their own devices most of the time (their mother died a little under a year earlier), except for evening times when a babysitter who used to live in the house, comes to take care of the twins.
Afterthoughts: At last a story which thankfully has a spooky theme to it. I’m not saying it’s a straightforward story with a simple narrative structure, but I don’t think Link can do straightforward and simple. It’s an OK story though (and so it should be having won the 1999 World Fantasy Award in the short fiction category), even if it does leave a few fundamental unanswered questions floating around in the head, whether intentional or not
Notable Quote: “Eight Chimneys is over two hundred years old. It is named for the eight chimneys which are each big enough that Samantha and Claire can both fit in one fireplace. The chimneys are red brick, and on each floor there are eight fireplaces, making a total of twenty-four. Samantha imagines the chimney stacks stretching like stout red tree trunks, all the way up through the slate roof of the house.”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

*Story read as part of my 31 Shots of Shock reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. I liked this one and the way that some of the information was not specifically given to the reader. We were allowed to “discover” from the clues given. At the same time, I would have liked maybe two more pages at the end. 😉

    That seems to be a theme with my Kelly Link reading … I am always left wanting more of each story. And like you said, I’m not exactly sure if it’s intentional or not.

  2. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    At first I found the lack of information annoying Kristen, But when I thought about it, it’s the lack of knowledge that gives this story one of it’s strengths.

    I’m with you on the wanting more though Kristen. None of Link’s shorts feel perfectly rounded, unlike say the short stories from Chekhov, Poe, Maupassant, Trevor et al.