- File Size: 338 KB
- Print Length: 128 pages
- Publisher: Neeland Media LLC (July 1, 2004)
- Publication Date: July 1, 2004
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000FC1YUI
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Not Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,831,586 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$4.99|
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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Kindle Edition
|Length: 128 pages|
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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Each story is told by an anonymous narrator, recounting various stories in a casual, matter-of-fact, chatty tone that adds to the realism of the stories, and (in an odd way) their inherent creepiness. Often he recounts his stories as anecdotes told by his companions, or through edited diary and journal entries, or in one case, the minutes of a court-case. These methods of telling the story add greatly to the effectiveness of the tale considering that the key to any truly scary story is subtlety, and by presenting them in such mundane terms, James captures the steady encroachment of the unknown on ordinary life with chilling effect.
In many horror stories (such as those of Algernon Blackwood) it is randomness that is terrifying, where odd happenings occur outside the "rules" of nature and logic. In comparison, James is slightly more forthcoming about the reasons behind his hauntings, providing some detail on why they happen and what's behind them. The fact that there is a pattern and a reason behind frightening events means that the protagonist (and by proxy, the reader) is slightly more empowered about what's going on, and can take steps to understand and stop the terrifying events. Of course, they don't always succeed.
"A School Story" concerns two men reminiscing about school ghost stories. One mentions his old Latin master, and how he reacted strangely to a particular boy's Latin translations that seem to contain some hidden meaning for him. This is an interesting tale as it is told from the point of view of witnesses to a haunting, not participants, and the teller of the story knows nothing about the background circumstances of the man's troubled past - though there are plenty of clues for the perceptive reader. Very short, but very intriguing, "More Ghost Stories" starts off with my favorite story.
In "The Rose Garden," Mary Anstruther unwisely orders the clearing of a plot of land for her rose garden, including a post fixed firmly into the ground. The gardeners are reluctant to touch the place, and residents of the area have their own tales from when they were children - nightmares that are soon shared by Mrs Anstruther's husband as to a trial that took place long ago.
"The Tractate Middoth" is something of a treasure hunt, in which a librarian is unknowingly swept up in a search for a deceased man's legacy when he is asked to retrieve a book that mysteriously disappears and reappears from the shelves, and which a terrifying specter seems to hold a particular interest in. A plan formed by an eccentric old man leads a nephew and niece on a search for his will - if only they can find the right book in time.
"Casting the Runes" is a story that reads a little bit like a dark old fairytale, in which an innocent man wrongs a figure of evil and as such has to outwit him before his time runs out. After refusing to allow Mr Karswell the chance to lecture on the subject of alchemy, Edward Dunning finds himself the subject of a supernatural attack. Getting into contact with the brother of a previous victim of Karswell, the two men plot to turn the tables on Karswell. Suspenseful and spooky, this is a clear-cut case of good versus evil.
It is an obituary that opens "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral," concerning the death of Archdeacon John Hayes, after which the narrator works backwards toward the ultimate cause of death: an oak tree. In between these two extremes are the suspicious circumstances in regards to how Hayes came to acquire the position of Archdeacon, a series of his diary entries and letters which become ever-more desperate and filled with the motto of "I must be firm," and a trio of carved wooden statues whose origins like in the satisfying conclusion to the story. This is another one of my favorites; a dark and delicious story of piecing together a supernatural mystery with a spine-tingling revelation at its conclusion.
"Martin's Close" is the aforementioned story that relies on the documented evidence of a court-case to reveal the tale of a "simple-minded" girl's death at the hands of a young lord. Though the telling of it is through the minutes of the court-case, along with dialogue of the witnesses, it still manages to keep a heightened sense of dread and suspense as the facts of the murder become clear.
"Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance" refers to the titular character inheriting his uncle's estate and learning more about it from the locals - particularly in regards to the yew maze that has been locked up for years, and which contains a strange copper globe at its centre. Though not especially frightening, this final tale is an intriguing and thought-provoking story that makes good use of both the charm and menace that mazes can offer an explorer.
Since the author himself lived from 1862 to 1936, the time period in which these stories are set have an authentic ring to them, and though James never strays far from his formula (rather, each story's uniqueness comes from the *way* in which it is told), as patterns go, he has latched onto a satisfying one. Every tale involves a series of spooky occurrences upon which light is eventually shed, but it is in the slow build up of the main character's persecution from demonic forces that James really cranks up the tension and delivers on his ability to scare the reader.
Keep in mind though that this particular compilation of stories may not be the best buy for a collector: I'm sure that there are other anthologies of James's work that contain all of his stories, the purchase of which will avoid doubling-up on certain tales. Browse before you buy.
I have also read his Father Brown mysteries which were pedestrian in comparison to these. If you like Le Fanu, I think you will like Chesterton.