For my Halloween Reads 2020, I read four spooky short stories by M.R. James, and although I am going to review each one separately – and briefly – I thought a single post was a more efficient use of time and blog space 😉
Summary – Mr Wraxhall, a travel-writer, goes to Sweden, where he comes across the interesting character of Count Magnus in the local history. But interest quickly turns into something far more deadly…
Favourite Quote – “…and found myself (as before) turning in at the churchyard gate, and, I believe, singing or chanting some such words as, ‘Are you awake, Count Magnus? Are you asleep, Count Magnus?’…”
Review – It took me a little while to get into this story, but when I did I found the sense of place that M.R. James conjured was captivating. As the story progressed, it gained momentum and the tension certainly increased. Although there are certainly horror elements to the tale, I think it’s the psychological element of this one that makes it memorable.
Summary – The story of a picture that is so much more than it seems at first glance…
Favourite Quote – “What he saw made him very nearly drop the candle on the floor, and he declares now that if he had been left in the dark at that moment he would have had a fit.”
Review – The Mezzotint was my favourite of the four short stories I read. It was tense, atmospheric and dramatic. Some paintings do have eerie qualities to them, so for this one to achieve what it did and tell such a sinister story…all I can say is that it was the perfect Halloween Read! Chilling. Highly recommended!
‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’
Summary – A college professor takes a short holiday on the East Coast, and is asked by a colleague to check out a site for an archaeological dig. But he finds so much more than he expects…
Favourite Quote – “Few people can resist the temptation to try a little amateur research in a department quite outside their own, if only for the satisfaction of showing how successful they would have been had they only taken it up seriously.”
Review – This story took a little while to get going, but once it did, my! As I mentioned in the previous two reviews, the tension builds quite dramatically, and I must confess, unexpectedly, because at first, I wasn’t quite sure I was that hooked into the story. There’s an almost nightmarish quality to this one, so if like me, you feel the beginning is too slow, stick with it. I wasn’t disappointed, and I hope neither will you be.
Casting the Runes
Summary – Mr Karswell writes books on esoteric subjects, but good luck to the reviewer whose finds his writing less than remarkable…
Favourite Quote – “Why, my dear, just as present Mr Karswell is a very angry man. But I don’t know much about him otherwise, except that he is a person of wealth, his address is Lufford Abbey, Warwickshire, and he’s an alchemist, apparently, and wants to tell us all about…”
Review – My least favourite of the four stories, this one felt it took a great deal of time to get going, and probably suffered for being the last one I read. I thought it more of a mystery with an almost fantasy bent to it than a truly ghostly read like the other three. The story was interesting, and I was keen to see how the tale was resolved, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to the characters. The locations were interesting too, but unfortunately, this probably wasn’t a good choice on my part for a Halloween Read.