Two Victorian gentlemen, last seen around 1898, have been brought back into society by the wonderful Valancourt books.
Mr Tress and Mr Pugh. They were childhood friends and, most of the time, they are still friends, but they are also bitter rivals. Because, you see, they are both collectors of curios.
Two very different men. Mr Tress is rational and pragmatic, while Mr Pugh is emotional and impulsive.
And each is driven by that same compulsion: the acquisition and ownership of the finest, the rarest, the most desirable objects. Sometimes they work together very well, but more often than not each is trying to outmanoeuvre and outdo the other.
It’s a highly entertaining, and very believable, relationship.
Some weird and wonderful objects have passed through their hands: a poisoned pipe that seems to come to life when smoked, a 14th century severed hand bent on murder, a phonograph record on which a murdered woman speaks from beyond the grave….
And so each gentleman has some wonderful stories to tell. An extraordinary range of stories: there’s comedy, mystery and drama inside this dark little book.
I heard echoes of both Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan-Doyle, but I also heard a voice that was very distinctive.
The voice of a master storyteller. Richard Marsh can ratchet up the tension, and then he knows just when to let go. He can present a puzzle that you think in unsolvable, and then provide the perfect answer. He can pull you along on a journey that makes you forget everything else. And he can make you hold your breath, gasp, laugh cry…
I’m sorry to have heard the last of the stories of Mr Tress and Mr Pugh.
But as a collector myself (of books) I’m quite sure that more of Richard Marsh’s work will be finding its way on to my shelves before too long…