Kay's Reviews > Carnacki, the Ghost Finder

Carnacki, the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
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Aug 03, 2007

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bookshelves: gaslight-weird, haunted-strange-macabre, fiction
Read in January, 1998

In the manner of the Sherlock Holmes stories, these tales concern a clever detective and are told by his sidekick. The difference, however, is that all the tales have a supernatural element. Rather than ultimately unmasking some supernatural hoax (such as the Hound of the Baskervilles), at times Carnacki wrestles with malign spirits. At other times, he does indeed unmask a hoax. In his pursuit of the truth, he employs a variety of ingenious devices of his own invention.

Carnacki himself is not a terribly well drawn character (unlike Sherlock Holmes). The tales are always told over dinner, with Carnacki holding forth to a circle of friends. (It's all veddy Edwardian). The chief appeal of the stories is the aura of mystery and the often sensational or bizarre turn of events. In one tale, Carnacki spends the night inside a pentacle beset on all sides by some unearthly horror; in another blood seems to drip from the ceiling (until Carnacki exposes it as a ruse).

One of the aspects I found most appealing was the depiction of Carnacki's various devices. These stories were written around 1910, and they are imbued with that belief that science knew no bounds, and that the future would bring amazing things. Scientists were akin to wizards; the general public looked upon them as almost a race of supermen. Carnacki is in this mold, and although he doesn't really come across as a three-dimensional character, he's an interesting "type," just as Professor Challenger (Arthur Conan Doyle) was an interesting "type" and John Silence (Algernon Blackwood) was an interesting "type."
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