Sunday 9 September 2007

Short Story Sunday

For RIP II Short Story Sunday I've chosen three stories from one of the books in my book pool - Tales of Unease by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The New Catacomb

Kennedy and Julius Burger are two young archaeologists working in Rome. The former is from a well off background, the latter is not and has had to make his own reputation by dint of hard work. Both love their work to the point of obsession. Burger has found a new catacomb but won't tell Kennedy where it is. Kennedy, used to getting his own way, has to know and Burger makes a bargain - that if his friend will tell him of his dealings with a certain young woman he will tell him the location of the new catacomb. Reluctantly, Kennedy gives in and tells him. To say more would give away the outcome, which, once I'd read a certain sentence I could see coming a mile away. A nicely written short story though, atmospheric, especially in the tunnels, and with a satisfying ending.

The Brown Hand

Dr. Hardacre relates the story of how he, out of the whole of his large family, came to be named heir to Sir Dominick Holden, an eminent surgeon who had spent many years in India. Holden had removed the hand of an Indian native and taken the hand in payment for the operation, for his pathological collection. The one stipulation was that the native wanted it back when he died. The hand had subsequently been destroyed in a fire and certain events were now making the retirement of Holden and his wife a complete misery. Dr. Hardacre was able to render them a certain service and thus became Holden's heir. A bit run-of-the-mill this one, but atmospheric enough and nice descriptions of the prehistoric Wiltshire countryside.

The Terror of the Blue John Gap

The title of this suggested to me that it was probably set in the Derbyshire Peak District so it was a story I really wanted to read. Of the three read, I think this was probably the strongest, both in atmosphere and plot. Dr. John Hardcastle is convalescing from an illness and goes to stay on a farm, run by two spinsters, in The Derbyshire Peak District. Close by is The Blue John Gap and the mine where the beautiful and rare Blue John mineral is mined. Legend has it that there is 'something living in the depths of the mountain' and Hardcastle is curious enough to investigate. Enough said. This is an engaging tale, written in the form of a diary. I loved the parts that took place underground in the caves and cavern, finding them creepy and claustrophobic. The Peak District itself is very well described; it's an area I like very much so I can vouch for its authenticity. Not a bad yarn.

Based on these three I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in this book. They certainly varied in quality, ie. whether they were creepy enough for my taste. The Terror of Blue John Gap was the best in that respect and if there are more like that in this volume I will be quite happy.

Currently reading: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly for the RIP II challenge.


Christina said...

I never knew Doyle wrote creepy things! And here I thought myself so smart! hehe.

Cath said...

Yes, he wrote quite a few creepy stories, plus a few of the Sherlock Holmes stories are a bit that way too. Also I believe Conan Doyle was really interested personally in the occult.

Ana S. said...

He was indeed interesting in the occult - especially in Spiritualism, and he was involved in the Cottingley fairies affair.

It was only this year that I started to read Conan Doyle, and I have yet to read any of his creepy tales, but I've noticed he can be very atmospheric, so I look forward to picking them up.

PS: I'm going to be reading The Book of Lost Things for the challenge soon too! It'll be fun to compare notes.

Cath said...

Nymeth: I don't personally think Conan Doyle is the best writer of creepy stories but neither is he the worst. :-) And it's high time I reread some Sherlock Holmes... maybe around Christmas.

I'm enjoying The Book of Lost Things even though it isn't quite what I thought it would be. It's just incredibly readable. Look forward to hearing what you think.

Robin said...

Oh..they sound really good. I'm going to have to read these since I enjoyed his A Study in Scarlet so much.

Cath said...

Robin: I'm not sure I've read A Study in Scarlett but I did read your review. I thought it interesting that Conan Doyle got the geography of Salt Lake City wrong. The Hound of the Baskervilles is an excellent one to read if you haven't already. I must get my Sherlock Holmes omnibus edition out and reread a few stories.