R.I.P Challenge: A Conclusion


Halloween, the midnight hour is close at hand, and my RIP challenge is complete.

Four wonderful books read:

Peril The First

Plus three lovely portmanteau books:

short story peril

A wonderful season.

Thank you Carl!

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley

Black Ship

Last week the Cornish coast was lashed by storms.

I was tucked up at home with a book, with waves outside crashing against the sea wall and being forced up over the promenade and the road. Our garden was soaked by the spray and the downstairs windows got a salt water rinse.

It’s a marvellous sight when you’re inside, secure in the knowledge that your home has withstood a multitude of storms over a hundred years and more.

And in the pages of my book two children looked out on a similar storm.

Ethan and Cathy were home alone, in an inn on the edge of a Cornish cliff. They had been sick and their widowed father had set out through the storm to fetch the doctor. After he left they felt better and got up to watch out for his return. But the man who appeared outside was not their father, but a young sailor.

Where had he come from? What was he doing out on such a night?

While Ethan hesitated Cathy granted the man admission to the inn. And they stuck a bargain. The man, Thackery, would be given refreshment and shelter from the storm, and in exchange he would tell the children stories of the sea.

Wonderful stories! Filled with all of the traditional elements of sea stories yet fresh and new. Each one simple,clear and engaging – and holding a striking twist.

Favorites? A compelling tale where the ship’s cat plays a central role. The story of two sailors who visit a tattoo parlour in a foreign port with extraordinary consequences. And, for me, the most haunting tale told of a child picked up from a small boat adrift.

And as the stories unfold Ethan begins to wonder where his father is and why Thackery has come. Ethan asks questions. Thackery tells no more than he wants to, and deflects attention by offering up more stories.

Until the final tale, which explains everything, twisting, not just once, but twice.

Everything is executed just perfectly – the words of Chris Priestley and the illustrations of David Roberts.

Yes, the format is the same as their previous work, Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, but it works. This volume is distinctive enough to stand up in its own right and just that little bit more sophisticated than its predecessor.

Perfect reading for the season – and I look forward to the next volume!

short story peril

Mugby Junction by Charles Dickens and others

Mugby Junction“Guard! What place is this?”

“Mugby, Junction, sir.”

“A windy place!”

“Yes, it mostly is, sir.”

“And looks comfortless indeed!”

“Yes, it generally does, sir.”

“Is it a rainy night still?”

“Pours, sir.”

“Open the door. I’ll get out.”

Right from that opening exchange, you know that Dickens is having fun with this work. Not one of the big books, but a serial launched in the Christamas edition of All The Year Round in 1866.

Interesting though that Dickens should choose to make trains his theme less than two years after the Staplehurst Disaster, when the train he was travelling in fell from a viaduct into a river. He and his party escaped injury, and he made efforts to assist the many who were injured and dying. The incident clearly left mental scars.

But Dickens, of necessity, continued to travel. And, of course, trains and the possibilities that they opened up were still relatively new.

The story opens at with an unnamed traveller descending onto an empty, dark platform at Mugby Junction. He took the train to try to escape from his old life and with the intention of alighting at a random station and leaving his future open to chance.

He first strikes up a relationship with Lamps, the station porter, and then with his invalid daughter Phoebe. And he decides to stay in the are a few days, talking to the inhabitants of Mugby about how they came to be there and where they hope to go, as he attempts to reach a decision about which of the seven lines in and out of Mugby Junction he might travell down. Ultimately though, he decides to stay in Mugby.

This framing story is told by Dickens. The small community centred on the station is comes to life, and the prose is peppered with railway rhythms and and expressions. A simple tale packed full of details, and so cleverly executed.

Six short tales follow – two from Dickens and four from other writers – testimonies from the people of Mugby representing the possibilities of the six other routes out of Mugby.

The stories are quite a mixture, covering a wide range of themes but drawn together by the ever-present theme of the railways. The quality is variable, but there is one gem among them – Dickens’ own The Signalman.

The signalman of tells of a ghost that has been haunting him. He receives ghostly signals that nobody else can hear. They foreshadow deaths on the railway, ultimately the signalman’s own. A simple concept but it is perfectly constructed, brilliantly executed and oh so spooky. I read it twice, picking up new things on the second reading, and would be more than happy to go back for a third reading.

Definitely the highlight of an intriguing period-piece.

short story peril

R.I.P IV Challenge


R.I.P. ? Readers Imbibing Peril !

Hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, there couldn’t be a better journey to set out on as the evenings draw in and Halloween approaches.

I am opting for Peril the First: Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

When I persused my shelves and considered the books I might borrow from the library or buy I came up with an insanely long long. So I took an axe to it, blood was spilled, and finally these four emerged:

Paul Ferroll

Paul Ferroll by Caroline Clive

Paul Ferroll’s wife lies violently murdered in her bed. A servant is arrested and later acquitted for the crime, time moves on, and Ferroll eventually remarries. A respected magistrate, a gifted author, and a loving husband, Ferroll’s character nonetheless seems to have a dark side.Why does he shun the friendship of his neighbours, neglect his young daughter, and evince indifference when the villagers die during a cholera outbreak? Is his strange behaviour caused by remembrance of his first wife’s untimely death, or does there lie hidden a much darker secret? Hugely popular and influential in its time and recognised as the successor to Jane Eyre and the predecessor of the sensation novels of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Paul Ferroll has suffered from an unfortunate neglect in the past century.

We have always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods – until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.


Hammer by Sara Stockbridge

Grace Hammer lives a sweet enough life with her four children in London’s dank and dirty East End, dipping the pockets of wealthy strangers foolish enough to venture there. She keeps a clean house and a tight hold on her magpie nature, restricting her interests to wallets and pocket watches, which are bread and butter – at night she dreams of shiny things. Unbeknown to Grace, her most audacious crime is about to leap seventeen years and come knocking. Out in the dark countryside Mr. Blunt rocks in his chair, grinding his teeth, vowing furious retribution. He has never forgotten his scarlet treasure, or the harlot that stole it from him. At night he dreams of slitting her lily-white throat…

The Mysterious Warning

The Mysterious Warning by Eliza Parsons

The good old Count Renaud is dead, and his will makes the degenerate Rhodophil his heir, disinheriting his other son Ferdinand, who has married against his father’s wishes. Rhodophil promises to share his new riches with his younger brother and his wife Claudina, but Ferdinand hears a mysterious voice from beyond the grave, warning him to flee his brother and his wife to save himself from sin and death! Ferdinand obeys the supernatural warning and sets out to find fortune and adventure. In the course of his quest he will encounter a recluse in a ruined castle with a horrible secret, find himself captured and imprisoned by the Turkish army, and encounter one of Gothic literature’s most depraved female characters, the monstrous Fatima. And if he survives all these dangers, Ferdinand must return to Renaud Castle to solve the mystery of the ghostly voice and uncover the terrible truth about his wife and his brother!

A dark quartet indeed! I am really looking forward to this …

Peril The First