Monday, September 16, 2013

The Temple of Death: Review

The Temple of Death is billed as ghost stories (or "Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural") by A. C. And R. H. Benson.  These are the lesser-known (for good reason, I think) brothers of E. F. Benson of Mapp and Lucia fame.  The back of the book says that these weird and chilling ghost stories have been undeservedly neglected for too long.  But I can't say that I think that's necessarily true.  I probably could have gone on just as well without ever having read these.  Oh, they're decent enough stories....particularly those by A. C. Benson.  But they're not strictly ghost stories--religious ghost stories, perhaps.  So, I guess "tales of the supernatural" would describe these best.  All of the stories have a very religious, moral tone.  In each, you have an element of good needing to triumph over evil--whether that be the evil of paganism and the Dark Arts or the evil doings of the human heart. 

The stories of R. H. Benson have far less substance than those of his brother--fortunately, there are fewer of them.  A. C. Benson's tales (synopses below) have more narrative and more depth.  The former's tales range from the "killer instinct" of a man compelled to shoot a thrush ("The Watcher") to two boys lost on a road who encounter a gypsy ("Blood Eagle").  There isn't much haunting to be found and I can't say that R. H. does much for me in the story-telling line.  Of A. C.'s stories, the best by far are "Out of the Sea," "Basil Netherby," and "The Uttermost Farthing." I don't say that you need to run out and find this collection, but if you do happen upon it then be sure to read these three if you read no others.  Three stars.  Just.

Stories by A. C. Benson:
"The Temple of Death": Paullinus, a Roman follower of the Christian faith, gets lost on his travels and finds himself at the pagan "Temple of Death."  Will his faith help him overcome the dreadful beast that is lord of the temple?

"The Closed Window": The evil Sir James de Nort died under mysterious circumstances in the turret room.  Since that time, the window has never been opened.  What will happen if his grandson and grand-nephew decide to do so? What odd vision of the world will be revealed?

"The Slype House": Anthony Purvis, owner of the Slype House, dabbles in the Dark Arts...and winds up in a battle for his very soul.

"The Red Camp": Walter Wyatt inherits the ancestral home. On his land, there is a dense wooded area known as the "Red Camp"--so-called because of the terrible battle that took place there.  Wyatt must lay to rest the souls killed on this terrible spot.

"Out of the Sea": A ghastly beast comes out of the sea to haunt a wealthy fisherman and his son--a fate they must endure because of their actions towards a survivor of a shipwreck.

"The Grey Cat": A young boy is in a fight for his very soul....with of all things, a harmless-seeming grey cat.

"The Hill of Trouble": Gilbert is happy in his life as a scholar at Cambridge--he's close to finishing the book that has been his life's work.  But then he goes visiting in the country, wanders onto the "Hill of Trouble" and has his future revealed to him by the spectre of the hill.  

"Basil Netherby": Basil is a musician of some little talent.  He takes up residence at a house with evil connections.  His music changes--and so does he.  Can his friend help rescue him from the evil influence of the house's former owner?

"The Uttermost Farthing": Three men race against the ghosts of two evil men to uncover hidden secrets.  Are the secrets better revealed or destroyed?

1 comment:

Ryan said...

These I think I can do without reading.