Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Tales of Terror & Mystery: Review

Tales of Terror and Mystery (1922; 1977) contains stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that were first published separately during a period from 1908 to 1921. The original publication does not appear to have included the very last story--and that was a very good thing. As with most story collections, the stories here are mixed in their strength and power to amuse. But that final story is a very weak offering indeed. My favorites ("The New Catacomb," "The Man With the Watches," and "The Brazilian Cat") lean more towards the detective genre than the supernatural. The few of these tales which I assume were supposed to terrify do not hold quite the power to shock that they may have done when first published. Nevertheless, Doyle has given us an entertaining selection and I did enjoy them. ★★

"The Horror of the Heights": In the early years of aviation, Doyle gives us a story that speculates on the unseen dangers that await pilots who keep venturing higher and higher in the earth's atmosphere.

"The Leather Funnel": A man learns that to sleep with an object may bring dreams of its past. The leather funnel has a very unpleasant past indeed.

"The New Catacomb": A tale of revenge...brought about through the use of Roman catacombs. A very clever intellectual revenge, indeed.

"The Case of Lady Sannox": Another tale of revenge...and even more diabolical than the last.

"Terror of Blue John Gap": Dr. James Hardcastle takes on the unknown creature that lives in the depths of Blue John Gap. But will anyone believe his tale?

"The Brazilian Cat": A man plans to do away with the heir that stands between himself and a fortune. The plot involves a very unusual murder method--but will it succeed?

"The Lost Special": As Mr. Bland the Superintendent of the Central L. & W. Railway Company says in the story, "Does a train vanish into thin air in England in broad daylight? The thing is preposterous. An engine, a tender, two carriages, a van, five human beings--and all lost on a straight line of railway." And yet, it does happen.

"The Beetle Hunter": Dr. Hamilton, who has yet to go into practice, is coming to the end of his resources when he spots an advertisement in the paper. The job requires someone who is a doctor with a strong physique as well as strong nerves and who has an interest in entomology (beetles, to be precise). Once he's got the job, he's in for a very interesting night at the home of Sir Thomas Rossiter the well-known entomologist....

"The Man With the Watches": Three people on a train disappear from two compartments while an unidentified dead man (with six expensive watches in his pockets) appears in one of the abandoned first-class sections. The police are baffled until a letter arrives from one of the missing men.

"The Japanned Box": After a man's beloved wife dies, his friends and servants fear that he has returned to his carousing and womanizing ways...especially when a woman's voice is heard coming from his rooms late into the night. The private tutor for the man's sons learns the secret after falling asleep in the library one evening....

"The Black Doctor": A surprise witness saves a hotheaded young man from a verdict of guilty in a murder case.

"The Jew's Breastplate": The museum's new curator and his friend (our narrator) hide in the attic's lumber room to catch the midnight visitor who has been vandalizing a priceless relic. The culprit is not who they were expecting....

"The Nightmare Room": A siren of a woman holds the fate of two men in her hands...her husband and his friend. And then....a disappointing, anti-climatic end.

1 comment:

Cath said...

I've read three or four of these in other collections, I suppose given ACD's popularity that's hardly surprising. But some of the others appeal to me so will see if I can see a volume of his short stories somewhere.