This was an interesting little collection, given to me by my grandad. I have some fond, vivid memories of visiting my grandparents as a kid, and sneak...moreThis was an interesting little collection, given to me by my grandad. I have some fond, vivid memories of visiting my grandparents as a kid, and sneaking off to read from the upstairs closet - Roald Dahl, Stephen King, stuff that scared me stiff in the best sort of way, while my grandad turned a blind eye approvingly. So, I had fairly high expectations when he gave me Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories, and I think the compendium largely met them. It's hard to be sure, because more than a decade on, I'm just not as easy to scare any more. But there were some good, well-written stories amongst the bunch.
The introduction by Dahl is bizarre and seems largely out of place. He uses it as a platform to meander on about how women are unsuccessful at pretty much everything, except for writing ghost stories. Er, okay then. Tone badly set, the first story, "W.S." is a bit of a loser, and a dull note to open on. Every twist and turn is laboriously sign-posted paragraphs in advance, and it left me feeling nonplussed. Rosemary Timperley's "Harry" is much more like it - a sharp and sudden reminder of how sinister ghosts can be. It helps that the stakes are naturally raised by placing a child in mortal peril, and I think this would have made a better opening tale.
"The Corner Shop" by Cynthia Asquith is quite atmospheric, though it doesn't really pull off its attempt at shocking through misdirection. E.F. Benson's "In The Tube" didn't do much for me at all - too much lengthy exposition, not enough fright. "Christmas Meeting", a second piece by Timperley, raises the bar, though I was disappointed at its bitesize length. I may have to search out some of her more substantial writing in future. "Elias and the Draug" by Jonas Lie is easily the worst in the collection. Dahl says in the introduction that it loses something in translation, and that definitely holds true. It's a bizarre tale completely devoid of emotion - a man loses his entire family during a vicious storm and just keeps on sailing. As you do.
A.M. Burrage's "Playmates" was something of an improvement, though I found it quite ponderous, and it doesn't even really try to be scary. It's followed by "Ringing the Changes" by Robert Aickman, which is absolutely terrifying in the build-up. The eventual "reveal" of the dead is a bit of an anti-climax, but up to that point, it's very well executed. Mary Treadgold's "The Telephone" has an interesting idea at its centre - a man who, upon dialling his old telephone number, can converse with his deceased wife. Told from the point of view of his current wife, however, the degree of detachment detracts from, rather than enhances the potentially chilling premise. "The Ghost of a Hand" by J. Sheridan Le Fanu is another dreadful one. It's apparently a snippet pulled from a longer story, and as far as I'm concerned, should have stayed there. The absolute lack of context translated into an absolute lack of caring. Burrage's second entry, "The Sweeper" has the same haunting atmosphere as "Playmates", but was more out-and-out scary in its execution, and definitely one that I enjoyed.
"Afterward" by Edith Wharton was probably my favourite of the whole collection. I felt for the protagonist, and the ghost was just so evil - none of the namby pamby Caspers of some of the other tales here. Richard Middleton's "On the Brighton Road" left very little impression on me. The closing story, "Marion Crawford's "The Upper Berth" was serviceable, but I think "Afterward" would have been a better note to close on.
It's one I enjoyed overall, uneven as the quality was in places. Lie and Le Fanu I wouldn't touch again, but Timperley, Burrage, Wharton and Aickman are by far the best of the bunch, and I'd be happy to read more by any of them in future. (less)
Pray for Silence sees Police Chief Kate Burkholder attempt to solve a gruesome home invasion, which leaves an entire Amish family dead.
I enjoyed this...morePray for Silence sees Police Chief Kate Burkholder attempt to solve a gruesome home invasion, which leaves an entire Amish family dead.
I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. It was a Christmas gift from my brother, and while I was touched that he remembered I love crime fiction, he managed to buy me the second in the series when I have no knowledge of the first. That was a little frustrating at times, because the first book is often alluded to, but in very incomplete detail. The plot itself has quite a few holes, which gives the impression of slap-dash policing, and the beginning flounders around a lot with no clear direction.
That said, I found the first person narrative quite engaging, and though grisly, the opening pages with the discovery of the crime were told in such vivid detail that for a while I couldn't put it down. It made for quite an enjoyable read overall, and I think that I'll give the first book a read too.(less)
I bought this for my eight-year-old brother for Christmas, and decided to read it before wrapping it. It's cute! Well, as cute as any book aimed at li...moreI bought this for my eight-year-old brother for Christmas, and decided to read it before wrapping it. It's cute! Well, as cute as any book aimed at little boys can be. It was pretty amusing, I liked the line art, and overall it was a nice way to spend an hour. The main character is a bit of a jerk at times, but I used to love books about ~how unfaaaair~ grown-ups were, and happy-clappy 'let's all be friends!' endings felt super patronising, so I'm sure I'd have dug this as a kid. I just hope Charlie likes it!(less)
My granddad gave me this, and I read a fair chunk of it at his house that afternoon. It just didn't draw me in enough to want to finish it off later,...moreMy granddad gave me this, and I read a fair chunk of it at his house that afternoon. It just didn't draw me in enough to want to finish it off later, but that's not to say I won't try again in future.(less)