Recently Curtis Evans of The Passing Tramp fame put out the call to fellow bloggers to take part in a month-long event sure to prepare us for Halloween. Friday Fright Night will find us serving up spooky, spirited reads at the end of each week throughout October. You'll see familiar faces from the Tuesday Night Blogger crew but all bloggers are welcome to serve up ghastly delights. Curtis is gathering these up on the Golden Age of Detection Facebook page, but if any of my readers would like to join the fun you are welcome to leave a link in the comments and I'll link you up.
Like Kate over at crossexaminingcrime, I'm not a huge horror fan (in fact, I'm a big weenie when it comes to such things), so my postings may be a bit tame, but I definitely want to try for the spirit of the thing. This week, I'm going to feature a few of the spooky covers from my collection. For full reviews of those I've served up on the Block over the years, just click on the relevant title. First up, the inspiration for our Friday Fright Night logo: the Avon Ghost Reader. This short story collection features the likes of H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, A. Merritt, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Bram Stoker and the stories range from a Southern ghost appealing for help to a stalking mother cat exacting revenge on her kitten's killer.Another creepy cover from Avon is found on the Avon Mystery Storyteller. This is another short story collection with stories from Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, John Dickson Carr, and Mignon G. Eberhart as well as lesser known authors. It includes stories of murder and mayhem as well as spine-tingling adventure. Of the two Avon collections, I found that this one contained the most even selection of stories--rating it as an overall fine collection.
Next up from Avon: Seven Footprints to Satan. A. Merritt's story has been billed as mystery, horror, and thriller--and I'd say it's quite a mix of all three, leaning more towards thriller with bits of mystery and horror thrown in for flavor. The super-villain reminds me of Fu Manchu mixed with Moriarty. I was surprised at the time of reading at how much fun and how engaging this trip in to a fantastic pseudo-cult could be Satan really is quite nasty and the delight he takes in destroying those who fail him is really diabolical--and all without the blood and gore that is prevalent in more recent thrillers. There are also interesting questions to consider is Satan as supernatural as he claims or is he just an incredibly intelligent and persuasive human master criminal.Moving on from Avon to Bartholomew House, we have D. B. Olsen's The Clue in the Clay. Olsen's story reminded me of many B-mystery movies that I watched on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the days of yore (before the American Movie Channel and Netflix...and even before DVDs). It's a delightfully fun kind of spooky mystery rather than the "I'm gonna have nightmares about this" creepy book. There are so many people in and out of the "murder house," there's the creepy druid statue, there's the long-abandoned mine, there's the mysterious private eye that no one can lay hands on, and there's more people popping in and out of the bushes than several rounds of "Pop Goes the Weasel."
4 Feet in the Grave by Amelia Reynolds Long is another Bart House selection. This one is even more appropriate for our Friday Fright Night extravaganza because the action takes place at the end of October and includes a ghost sighting. Katherine "Peter" Piper, a mystery writer by trade and amateur detective by inclination, is invited to Ghost Walk, the home of a fellow author, for a little Halloween get-together--an ordinary Halloween party with "Materialization and other psychic phenomena guaranteed." Of course, it turns out to be not-so-ordinary with murder an mayhem as well as a ghostly appearance.
The Seventh Mourner by Dorothy Gardiner is an unusual mystery. The cover has a somewhat somber, somewhat Gothic look--but the flavor is more comic than mysterious. Following Moss Magill through his adventures in Scotland and discovering the murderer in their midst is more fun than puzzling, more entertaining than mystifying. But it's good solid entertainment and if you're looking for light mystery fare this Halloween, then this is just the thing. If you don't expect complex plotting and serious sleight-of-hand with clues, then you'll be ready to settle down for a pleasant read.
The last of the covers already reviewed on the blog, The Mystery of Hunting's End is a book that I've had a long love affair with. It was a gift from a beloved grandma and it was the very first locked room mystery I ever read. I first read it in the Crime Club hard back edition (no dust jacket) which came from Grandma. Then, somehow mysteriously, that edition disappeared and when I went looking for another copy I found the paperback edition pictured here. I spent many (re-)reading hours in that creepy, isolated hunting lodge being spooked (along with Nurse Keate) by the dog that seemed to see ghosts.