Tuesday Terror! Ghosts from the Library edited by Tony Medawar

Criminally spooky…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

There has always been a strong crossover between the genres of crime and horror, and many authors have tried their hand at both. This collection brings together ghostly offerings from fifteen authors better known as mystery writers, mostly from the Golden Age or shortly after. There’s an extra story from MR James, helpfully included because Dorothy L Sayers uses it as a jumping off point for her story. All the entries bar one are stories – GK Chesterton’s is a short essay in which he advises writers how to do ghosts in fiction (oddly, since that’s hardly what he’s known for, but it gives him an opportunity to sound supercilious towards writers whose reputations have long surpassed his own). And as with the Bodies from the Library series to which this is a companion, all the stories have never been collected before (except the MR James) and in one or two cases are being published here for the first time

The overall standard is very high, with only two of the stories getting low ratings from me. All the rest were fairly evenly divided between good, very good and excellent, so a very enjoyable collection in total. What I would say, though, is, that with a couple of notable exceptions, the writers have tended to write what felt to me like crime or mystery stories with a ghostly element rather than the more traditional spooky story of, say, MR James himself and his ilk. This worked great for me since I’m a fan of both genres and actually prefer even my ghost stories to have a proper plot. But I suspect it might mean they wouldn’t work quite so well for people looking for traditional ghost stories and spooky scares – this, I’m guessing, may be why it’s getting pretty mixed ratings on Goodreads so far.

There are loads of well-known names – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Josephine Tey, Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, et al – and, because of the format, no well known stories, so even enthusiastic anthology readers like myself will find all these stories new to them. Here are a few of the ones I enjoyed most:

The Green Dress by Anthony Berkeley – a painter is helped by a ghostly model, but what does she want? I highlighted this one in a recent Tuesday Terror! post.

The Witch by Christianna Brand – A longer story this one, novelette length, it tells of a woman, Laura, alone in the world but with a small inheritance. She has a whirlwind romance with Gereth, and marries him despite barely knowing him. Then she finds a letter in his pocket from his first love, Dorion, talking about murder. Beautiful Dorion seems to have the ability to make men and animals bend to her will and is known locally as a witch. But is Gereth plotting with her to get Laura’s inheritance? A great story, full of suspense and Gothic horror. Is Dorion really a witch? I’ll leave you to find out for yourself!

The Red Balloon by Q. Patrick – This one is really more of a science fiction story, but with some great horror aspects. The narrator is a journalist, sent to report on a terrible incident when two children are killed when they run after a mysterious red balloon. The children’s bodies are kind of dried out, sort of mummified. The journalist’s uncle is a famous but eccentric scientist, and he has a theory that the red balloon comes from an invisible planet which approaches Earth every 28 years. As we will discover, the reason the balloon is red is quite gruesome! Despite the dead children motif, this story is humorous, and references HG Wells quite strongly and openly. Light-hearted, well written and shivery fun.

Run, Pooh! Run!!

Death in a Dream by Laurence Meynell – After being hit on the head during a bombing raid, our narrator begins having dreams in which he time-slips, sometimes to the past, sometimes the future – he doesn’t always know himself. One night he dreams of a nurse murdering her patient, a middle-aged woman. But has it already happened or is it still to come? Very short and more ironically humorous than scary, but very well done!

St Bartholomew’s Day by Edmund Crispin – A dilettante historical researcher is investigating Raoul de Savigny, a man who was killed in the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre. He learns that de Savigny’s papers were buried with him, in his casket in the mausoleum in the grounds of his château. The historian breaks in, rather foolishly on St Bartholomew’s Day, and finds more in the mausoleum than he was expecting! This has a great mix of humour and horror and is very well told. Probably one of the most traditionally “ghost story” style tales in the collection.

So loads of variety – lots of great authors having some fun and inviting the reader along to share in it. And this reader certainly appreciated the invitation! I’d probably recommend it more to vintage mystery fans than horror fans – half the fun comes from seeing the authors try something a bit different to what we normally expect from them, most of them very successfully. Another one that would make a great Christmas stocking gift!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Collins Crime Club.

Amazon UK Link

32 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Ghosts from the Library edited by Tony Medawar

  1. This sounds a great collection; I especially like that these give one a taste of ‘new’ authors as well as known ones. Like you I like my ghost stories to be well rounded too; and a combination with a mystery element makes them quite perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love meeting so many new authors in anthologies, though my great plans to follow up on them almost never happen! Yes, the one thing I don’t like about ghost stories is that they often don’t have a proper story – I need that just as much as the spooky scares. So these worked great for me!

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  2. Oh, this does look like a great collection, FictionFan! Even if a few of the stories didn’t do it for you, it sounds as though most of them were good (or even great), and that’s saying something; collections can be quite uneven. You make an interesting point, too, about the difference between a spooky/ghost story and a crime/mystery story with a spooky element. They’re not the same, and people who want one may not like it as well if they read the other.

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    • A very high standard in this, just as there has been in the “Bodies from the Library” series. And what I liked was that most of the authors were clearly having fun playing with the horror genre, and that’s always infectious. A happy writer makes for happy readers! (Something someone should have told Mr Steinbeck, perhaps… 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

    • I loved the way the authors were clearly enjoying playing with a different genre, and most of them did it very well! Hahaha, poor Pooh – I’ll never look at a red balloon in quite the same way again… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been more drawn to the bodies in the library, but this one does sound good. Of course I’m curious about the red balloon story (and love the WTP gif!!) I’m glad it was a winner for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve loved both Bodies and Ghost – it really is an excellent series, especially for seeing these authors try something different, usually successfully! Hahaha, poor Pooh – I shall never look at red balloons again without shivering… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, can you tell that Chesterton gets right up my nose? He actually had the temerity to be snide about The Hound of the Baskervilles! Tchah! 😡 Otherwise, however, this is a great collection – I loved seeing the mystery writers having some spooky fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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