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The only annotated edition of M. R. James's writings currently available, Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories contains the entire first two volumes of James's ghost stories, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. These volumes are both the culmination of the nineteenth-century ghost story tradition and the inspiration for much of the best twThe only annotated edition of M. R. James's writings currently available, Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories contains the entire first two volumes of James's ghost stories, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. These volumes are both the culmination of the nineteenth-century ghost story tradition and the inspiration for much of the best twentieth-century work in this genre. Included in this collection are such landmark tales as "Count Magnus," set in the wilds of Sweden; "Number 13," a distinctive tale about a haunted hotel room; "Casting the Runes," a richly complex tale of sorcery that served as the basis for the classic horror film Curse of the Demon; and "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad," one of the most frightening tales in literature. The appendix includes several rare texts, including "A Night in King's College Chapel," James's first known ghost story....

Title : Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories
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ISBN : 9780143039396
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
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Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories Reviews

  • Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
    2018-09-30 16:48

    My grandfather, my father’s father, attended Eton College before the Second World War, leaving there for Sandhurst when he was seventeen. During his time at school he got to know M. R. James, who was provost until his death in the summer of 1936. Grandfather was among the successive waves of boys that James introduced to the tingly delights of the ghost story, a genre in which the old master excelled, writing some of the best tales in the English language. He learned to love the ghost story from James just as I was later to learn to love the ghost story from him.Montague Rhodes James, to give him his full name, was actually a specialist in medieval manuscripts and the provost of King’s College, Cambridge as well as Eton. But he is best remembered for his delicious tales of the supernatural, some of the best set in East Anglia, a place of lonely, wind-swept coasts, of unsettled spirits, of hidden Anglo-Saxon crowns and their restless guardians. Who is this who is coming, summoned by a whistle? It might be William Ager, a cat looking to devour those whose curiosity took them too far into a secret past.I say ghost stories but James really crosses boundaries, resting on less spectral, far more tangible forms of horror. His tales touch on discoveries of things best hidden, of secrets that should never be told, of forces uncovered by antiquarians, forces from which they recoil, unable to close that which has been opened; marvellous stories like A Warning to the Curious and Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to you, My Lad. Even writing the titles brings a tingle of remembrance! Ranging wider there is Lost Hearts, and wider still Count Magnus and The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.When I was away at school I took my own copy of James’ Ghost Stories with me as a night-time companion. I delight in recalling the terrors in reading the stories by torchlight under my duvet after lights out, stopping at every creak and imagined noise! Sir John Betjeman, also a lover of these stories, had a similar early encounter;In the year 1920 I was a new boy at the Dragon school, Oxford, then called Lynam's, of which the headmaster was C. C. Lynam, known as 'the Skipper'. He dressed and looked like an old Sea Salt, and in his gruff voice would tell us stories by firelight in the boys' room of an evening with all the lights out and his back to the fire. I remember he told the stories as having happened to himself…they were the best stories I ever heard, and gave me an interest in old churches, and country houses, and Scandinavia that not even the mighty Hans Christian Andersen eclipsed.Skipper was being wonderfully disingenuous because, as Betjeman later discovered, the stories he was claiming as his own reality were in fact the fictions of James. But I can’t think of a more delightful way of discovering them, adding a verisimilitude that must have amplified one’s sense of terror.Although some of the stories, Count Magnus being a case in point, are set abroad, Scandinavia being a favoured location, they all have a uniquely English feel to them, as unique and as eccentric as their antiquarian narrators or protagonists, really just dimensions of James himself. Fortunately for him, he never crossed boundaries; unfortunately for them, his scholarly protagonists often did. Curiosity is a marvellous thing, but like all marvellous things there are limits that should never be broken. The tales are bags full of atmosphere, heightened, if anything, by a narrative technique that now seems quaintly old fashioned.I’m older now; the childish terrors have gone, the seduction of fear has gone, though the memory remains. I could never forget Count Magnus; never forget the terrible pursuit through time and distance of poor scholarly Mister Wraxall, who disturbed those who never should have been disturbed;People still remember last year at Belchamp St Paul how a strange gentleman came one evening in August years back; and how the next morning but one he was found dead, and there was an inquest; and the jury that viewed the body fainted, seven of 'em did, and none of 'em wouldn't speak to what they see, and the verdict was visitation of God; and how the people as kep' the 'ouse moved out that same week, and went away from that part. But they do not, I think, know that any glimmer of light has ever been thrown, or could be thrown, on the mystery. It so happened that last year the little house came into my hands as part of a legacy. It had stood empty since 1863, and there seemed no prospect of letting it; so I had it pulled down, and the papers of which I have given you an abstract were found in a forgotten cupboard under the window in the best bedroom.As I say, there are some things best left alone!I once took Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black away as part of my holiday reading on a trip to Spain. As a story it’s good enough, meaning scary enough, though not as good or scary as James. But the context simply did not work. Sun-drenched beaches and warm southern nights dispel the mood. The imagination fails to add the misty shadows that are all part of the experience. The ghost story is for cool, dark English nights, particularly in the depth of winter. Then every creak and unexpected sound is magnified by the senses. One waits in dread for that moment when Count Magnus or William Ager finally opens the door.

  •  Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
    2018-10-16 21:11

    This review is for Count Magnus alone (although I fully intend to read the other stories at some point).Mr. James has not been called a ghost story-writing master for no reason. He is an expert at building the atmosphere and writing a story that delivers an eerie, creepy thrill to the reader. Although I wouldn't call this one of my favorite stories by him, he was quite successful with this tale about an ill-fated travel-writer who comes upon the mystery of a not-so nice Swedish nobleman with an incredibly unsavory history.Although the amount of detail in this story will probably bore a reader who is used to a more modern, terse style of writing, I enjoyed James' almost conversational way of telling a story. Those ghost stories that are told as though I am the reader hearing my friend tell me about a real set of events are the most effective to me, because they feel more real, and the unsettling elements have a personal impact since I feel like I am there in the action.Mr. James builds up the suspense as you hear about Count Magnus, and he leaves certain facts to the reader's imagination. I think that's probably a little more scary. I wondered what was up with the two figures who were apparently stalking Mr. Wraxall. I felt a chill go through my body when Wraxall encounters a sarcophagus that appears to be unlocking itself. What's going to come out of that coffin? What powers does Count Magnus possess, even from beyond the grave?This story won't work for a reader who wants a more "in your face" style. But for readers who enjoy the old-fashioned, but very creepy and atmospheric ghost/horror story will enjoy this one.Rating for "Count Magnus": 4 stars.

  • Diana
    2018-10-17 19:51

    Some of these were truly excellent, others a little difficult to get through. Overall, though, exactly what I wanted to read this time of year.

  • Orrin Grey
    2018-10-07 01:12

    After re-reading my Collected Ghost Stories in honor of M.R. James' birthday, I realized a lot of things, not least that I was more enamored of (and more indebted to) M.R. James than I'd realized. So at once I sought out the Penguin editions which, though they contained more or less all the same stories as the Collected Ghost Stories, also contained various notes from James himself, as well as annotations and the like. I'd definitely say these were the definitive volumes, assuming that (like me) you can't get hold of the very nice edition that Ash-Tree Press put out some time ago.

  • Scott Rhee
    2018-10-20 16:49

    M.R. James loved to tell ghost stories around the fire, apparently a Christmas tradition in England during the Victorian Period, and someone wisely suggested that he put several of the spookiest ones into book form. Thus, we have "Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories", published by Penguin Classics, the only comprehensive collection of his complete stories. Not a lot, to be sure, but enough to paint a picture of a time when people were still terrified by floating bedsheets and whispering wind. Subsequent horror authors such as H.P. Lovecraft would cite James as an inspiration for their predilection for the supernatural and macabre. By today's standards, James's stories probably aren't all that scary, but more than a few of them still manage to raise the hair on the back of one's neck.

  • Suzanne moodhe
    2018-10-04 21:16

    God I love ghost stories! Fall is the best time of year for a little Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft and now...M.R. James. Ever wonder why ghosts wear sheets? Read the short story, "Oh, Whistle and I'll come to you my lad" and you will understand why. Creepy stories - Lovecraftian, yes but with a wry humor and a more concise style...Other good reads in this book include, "The Rose Garden", "Number 13", "A school tale" and Count Magnus. Happy Hauntings!

  • Kim
    2018-10-18 00:01

    I loved this book. I think that it is hard to find really good ghost stories. These are great! If you like Victorian fiction, you should love these.

  • Bernadette Donnelly
    2018-09-27 18:16

    A decent set of ghost stories but they are lacking compared to others I have been reading recently.

  • Rachel Seamount
    2018-09-25 18:15

    M.R. James is the man who put “scary” into “scary ghost stories” and as much as I hate to admit it, he was damn good at it. As the man who pioneered turning spooks and haunts into things that actually jumped out and got you, he helped to inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s more well-known macabre tales.There’s a lot that can be gleaned from James’ writing style, but I’ll leave that to authors more dedicated to horror writing than I am. What I took away from the collection Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories was that when it comes to the supernatural one shouldn’t be too concerned about explaining mysteries. Ghosts don’t need a reason to terrorize, room 13 existing only at night and being occupied by the devil does not need to be rationalized, we don’t need to fully understand why a man finds himself muttering beside the coffin of a long-dead count while that coffin slowly opens…It just is. And it’s terrifying to see those specters and ghouls and creatures and dark magic at work. It’s not terrifying to have someone sit down with a pipe beside the fire and explain away the mystery. Something to think about the next time I try to info-dump on my readers via fireside chat.

  • Martha
    2018-10-06 23:14

    This was my first crack at reading MR James, and I must say I really enjoyed it. Probably not much can be said about his writing that hasn't already been said, but I will give my impressions anyway.James writes in a much more readable and direct way than some other writers of classic or gothic horror, for example LeFanu. The prose is still elaborate enough to be very satisfying to a reader of classic horror.I am definitely interested in reading more MR James in the future. My favorite stories in this collection were 'Lost Hearts', 'The Treasure of Abbot Thomas', 'Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance', and 'The Ash-Tree' (because I hate spiders!).

  • Eleanore
    2018-09-30 20:13

    I'd been meaning to read something of M.R. James's for a few years now, and since this month I wanted to read only horror and/or ghost stories, this seemed like it was finally the time. I thoroughly enjoyed them all, a few in particular, and they all in their own ways ended up having a tone of slight but wonderful humor to them I didn't come in expecting. But, most importantly, they are all genuinely creepy. I think "The Mezzotint" might be my favorite of this collection, but it's a tough choice.

  • Terese
    2018-10-08 17:53

    "Thou shalt seek me in the morning, and I shall not be."Spooky, cosy and sometimes chilling. MR James is a master of the ghost story (though not as terrifying as Lovecraft) and manages to set the perfect mood to all of his short stories that are all of a surprisingly superb quality. That said I didn't love them all equally but "Lost hearts", "Casting the runes" and "Oh Whistle, and I'll come for you, my lad" will stay with me for a loooong time..."Quis est iste qui veint"

  • Devon
    2018-10-01 22:05

    A guy finds a mysterious object, upsets a sacred place, or angers a crazy person. Then bad, scary stuff happens. Eventually he dies. Or never speaks of the event again...The stories are good, but generally seem to follow the same plot, outlined above. Plus, its totally obvious that this is a late 19th/early20th century male author. The only women who show up are young maid servants or nagging wives...

  • Song
    2018-09-26 00:17

    Just can't put the book down. With the rich knowledge of a Cambridge biblical scholar and the half real half faked England geography, the author weaved the vivid and attractive scenes of dark, monstrous, unspeakable and abhorrent ghost world. The "creatures" in the book are imaginative and won't even be dreamed in the worst nightmares. Oh did I mention the *dreams*? Good luck at night...

  • нєνєℓ¢ανα
    2018-09-26 17:50

    Excellent!

  • Judith
    2018-09-24 22:55

    This is the kind of horror I remember reading in my younger years - originally published in 1931, they are spine-tingling to be sure. I read up on the author (Montague Rhodes - no wonder he used his initials!) and discovered that he originally wrote these stories to be read aloud in the tradition of Christmas Eve spooky stories. The stories are mostly rural settings and would probably be considered "old-fashioned" by today's youth and not at all like the writings of King and Koontz. Personally, I prefer these over the newer authors of today.

  • Rowan
    2018-10-06 20:02

    Top notch gothic ghostery. Loved the stories and got some genuine chills. The standout element for me is James' obvious love of archaic language styles . His knack for mimicking 17th and 18th century language is very apparent and he utilises it brilliantly. Lovecraftians and Poeians , I recommend this highly .

  • Jen
    2018-09-27 20:09

    M.R. James' stories are no doubt enjoyable but they do get a bit repetitive after awhile. Scholar finds weird thing, ghost ensues. This edition was so heavily annotated that I found it took me out of the stories. Some of it was helpful context and some was just distracting. Would certainly read more M.R. James but likely would do so in amongst other works as well so it would break it up a bit.

  • Michele
    2018-09-21 00:09

    I thought MR James' stories were supposed to be spooky??I've been far more 'spooked' by the likes of 'Macbeth', 'The Owl Service' (Alan Garner), and 'Z for Zachariah', than anything in this collection.

  • Бранимир Събев
    2018-10-16 23:09

    Поредното съкровище от кашоните. След прочитането на "Граф Магнус" лично и твърдо съм убеден, че най-добрите автори в света са британците и точка по въпроса. Стилът на Монтагю Роудс Джеймс и изящен и изтънчен, без излишни кървища, а чист хорър, страховито повествование и вледеняващи тръпки. Е, на моменти подробната описателност е мъъъничко излишна, но все пак книгата излиза за пръв път през 1931-а. М. Р. Джеймс пише като типичен британец от старата школа своите разкази за призраци, с една особена висота, която загатва за основната му дейност - а именно, човекът е бил преподавател в Кеймбридж! Изненадах се още, че тази книга е била пусната на пазара не от кого да е, а от издателство Кралица Маб? Моите почитания към г-н Николай Аретов за това, че тази книга е видяла бял свят.Всъщност, този сборник съдържа точно дузина разкази, което е леко подвеждащо от подзаглавието му - човек би се объркал, че са тринадесет с Граф Магнус. Но да не се спираме на дреболии, а да караме нататък:1. Албумът на каноника Алберик - една книга, едно чудовище и един твърде, твърде любознателен човечец.2. Изгубени сърца - една от най-добрите творби в сборника, разказваща за едно от най-съкровените човешки желания и как някои от нас не биха се поколебали да прекрачат всички граници, за да го постигнат. Но ги постига заслужен край, разбира се.3. Гравюрата - поредното доказателство, че истинският писател може да хване нещо толкова обикновено и да създаде от него брилянтен разказ.4. Ясенът - мисля, че това е любимецът ми, фаворитът във сборника. Едно дърво, криещо ужасни тайни...5. Граф Магнус - разказът, дал името на сборника е неслучаен. Силна и ужасяваща е историята за старият благородник, който отказва да умре.6. Само свирни и ще дойда - вкоравяващ сърцето страх за тайнствено привидение... Само надуй странната свирка - и то ще дойде... То няма тяло, но ще приеме някаква форма!7. Съкровището на абат Томас - е, понякога и така става с иманярите. Просто някои съкровища са пазени от нещо, което не е от този свят.8. Училищна история - кратка приказка за едно от многобройните поверия, разпространявани в момчешките пансиони. Напомни ми за "Ритуалът на костите" от сборника "Нощни приказки" на Джон Конъли.9. Предаване на руни - зъл човек практикува тайнствени древни ритуали, с което се прочува из цялото градче. Но какво ще се случи, когато всичко се обърне срещу него?10. Троновете на катедралата в Барчестър - стар самотен свещеник е преследван от зловещи фигури.11. Предупреждение към любопитните - когато си прекалено любопитен и се замесиш със свещена реликва, която е символ на цяла страна, няма как да се измъкнеш читав от цялата работа.12. Виещият кладенец - историята за едно нахално и проклето младо момче, което ще бъде застигнато от заслужена съдба.Приятно четиво, което ще разхлади нощите ви, определено! Поредното доказателство, че не е нужно да си написал купища романи, за да се назовеш писател - достатъчни са и разказите за целта.И още един автор, от който за жалост на български не сме видели нищо друго, освен този иначе великолепен сборник.

  • Rachel
    2018-10-21 00:15

    I really enjoyed this book. I love the authors writing style. His stories are filled with so much detail and the characters are endearing. I have to be honest. I did not finish the book though. The only time I have to read is at night and the book was creeping me out. I am a bit of scardey cat, so I finally had to put the book away. I would definitely go back to it again though... in a well lit room... with plenty of people around.

  • Kendra
    2018-10-03 01:15

    James is the master of the English ghost story.

  • David Stephens
    2018-10-06 21:10

    M.R. James was an eminent scholar of medieval manuscripts and early Christianity; however, even with his solid output in academia, he is best known for his short ghost stories. This is the first recently assembled volume of his work, and it brings together fifteen of his (presumably) best tales.As a scholar, James makes good use of his knowledge of arcane history. While his stories aren't set way in the past in abandoned and crumbling castles, they usually involve a historian or scholarly type going through old records or visiting historic sites and stumbling upon some unknown entity. These more contemporary settings allow readers to feel themselves present in the stories more so than they could with distant Gothic novels.The narrators usually recount bizarre and unaccountable phenomena that happened to fellow colleagues. And, while none of the stories strays far from this typical formula, there is enough suspense and intrigue built within each tale to keep them interesting.Readers won't find great character development or in-depth examinations of human behavior. That's okay, though, because James never intended these to be anything but short tales of terror. And, he certainly delivers stories that are genuinely creepy. It may be quite a subjective thing, but I found "The Ash-Tree," "Number 13," and "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas" to be the most frightening tales of the bunch.What James does so well is to intimate early on what may happen, which begins building tension. Later, he will only give a brief glimpse of the supernatural—a dark shape that scurries out the window or a picture that looks slightly different than it did earlier—leaving characters and readers alike with only a limited amount of knowledge; never is everything explained. Just enough is shown to know that no more ought to be brought to light.

  • Chris Matney
    2018-10-04 17:53

    Having just re-read the entire H.P. Lovecraft canon, I wanted to explore some of the authors that inspired him - starting with M.R. James. I am a fan of S.T. Joshi's editorial work on Lovecraft, so I decided on the Penguin Classics two-volume compendium of the four books that James published during his lifetime.If you are a fan of antiquarian horror, then Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories should be on your must-read shelf. These are subtle tales with wonderful settings - dusty libraries filled with mysterious tomes, ancient tombs and hedge mazes overgrown from decades of abandonment, Victorian England at its height.Designed to be read to friends at Christmas parties around the fireplace, I highly recommend reading each story in a single sitting - preferably at night with the lights low. Mr. James is a master at simple settings in which odd, quirky events begin to unfold slowly - growing ever more menacing and unbelievable - until a final climax which will leave the hair standing up on the back of your neck.These stories are not fast-paced. They do not have violence, blood, and gore. What they do have is a wonderful use of language, a strong sense of voice, and a view of a time period ripe for ghosts and unexplained phenomenon.My favorite tales in the volume: The Tractate Middoth, The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral, Number 13... hmm, I really liked almost all of the stories.For the casual reader, there is a bit of work required - unless your Latin is better than mine. However, I highly recommend this volume to anyone interested in the history of the genre.

  • Joe
    2018-10-09 18:16

    Truthfully, this book was a whole lot better than I expected. Unfamiliar with the work of M.R. James, I imagined it much like the writing of Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, or one of his other contemporaries. In fact, often unlike the work of those named above, these stories are well-crafted, accessible, and bear multiple readings surprisingly well. This collection features the stories compiled in two of his early collections, Ghost-Stories of an Antiquary and More Ghost-Stories of an Antiquary, which generally depict the author, slightly altered in personality but recognisable nonetheless, discovering some dark secret hidden in an old house, an abandoned ruin, or simply a household item. Despite the formulaic pattern of storytelling employed in this anthology, the stories are both enjoyable and sufficiently chilling to withstand centuries of social change. At times almost suggestive of H.P. Lovecraft in their scale, the tales reproduced here follow James' development as a writer, an Eton professor telling A School Story to Cambridge don producing technical descriptions of the university's stained-glass windows on a Night in King's College chapel to the literary and historical authority he shows himself to be in texts such as The Tractate Middoth and Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance.

  • Kim Wong
    2018-10-07 20:07

    I struggled to find something to say about this collection of early ghost stories by M.R. James other than it's a fine collection that's enhanced by S.T. Joshi's annotations in the Penguin Classics edition that I read. I was drawn to them because they influenced H.P. Lovecraft; James's "Count Magnus" has been cited as an inspiration for Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward." James's stories are fairly formulaic; a male scholar or researcher travels to an unfamiliar or fictional locale, described in great detail by James, in order to work on his writings or investigate artifacts like manuscripts or artwork. Small moments of creepiness build to the grand revelation of the mystery's secrets, whether it's the occupant of a mysterious thirteenth room that only appears at night or what lay inside a sarcophagus. The protagonist escapes swiftly, and the mystery is sometimes resolved, sometimes left lingering. James's style is dry and almost conversational, and his stories carry a theme about wariness of the unknown and the steep price of curiosity. I read and enjoyed them on a mostly intellectual level; the distance of years or my own temperament may have prevented me from enjoying them any more deeply than that.

  • Annie Neugebauer
    2018-09-26 17:52

    I recently read the Penguin Classics edition of M.R. James’s short stories, Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories. James was the last author I hadn’t read from my list of The Founding Fathers (and Mothers) of Horror Literature. Indeed, he does belong there.Who is M.R. James? I now think of him as “the most famous horror author you’ve never heard of.” He’s known for a single type of short story that he did very well: the antiquarian ghost story. What’s that mean? He told supernatural tales of fright set back in time a little ways for his readers and ‘a lot aways’ for us. His stories are subtle, original, quality stuff, but they don’t have the boundary-pushing concepts of Matheson or Bradbury, nor did they ever really develop the cult followings of Lovecraft or Poe. And although technically solid, James is rarely given any critical or scholarly acclaim, in spite of his being a well-respected scholar himself. Yet somehow, his story niche and his unabashed embrace of said niche has given him an enduring and quiet spot in the literary canon for over a century now. Like I said: the most famous horror author you’ve never heard of.Read the rest of this review here: Thoughts on M.R. James

  • Tyler K.
    2018-09-29 22:00

    There are two things about M.R. James' writing that keep me coming back to reread his stories. First, he's a genius at drawing absolute too-afraid-to-scream terror out of everyday events and objects, and giving just enough description of them to really stick in your mind after you go to bed. For a week or so. Second, he's nearly as good at building tension and interest over the course of a story; every event and development is carefully chosen and described, and they're ordered within the story (using flashbacks, fictional letters, etc.) in a way that maximizes the effect. Also, his work is at least as good as Lovecraft's (and considerably less racist), and probably better than Arthur Machen's and Robert Chambers'.Edit: Do NOT start with "Canon Alberic's Scrapbook," the first story in this collection. If you do, at least don't read it when you're alone in the house.

  • Wendell Mckay
    2018-09-26 00:17

    The first volume of Penguin's superb annotated collection of James' stories (by "weird fiction" scholar S.T. Joshi) contains some of the best and most famous works by one of literature's preeminent practicioners of the ghost story. Indeed, I might even argue that as far as specializing in "ghosts" as subject matter, James may have been the greatest of all. The first volume contains "Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book," "The Mezzotint," "'Oh, Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad'," "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas," and "The Ash-Tree" among many others. James' plots may have been a little wonky, his characters uniformly "dusty bachelors" of a late Victorian bent, and entirely too obsessed with Gothic architecture and obscure Church history, but once it got to the chills, there was nobody better at delivering them.

  • Marie
    2018-10-14 20:16

    I love this set of short stories! I have read them twice and I will probably read them again some day, tucked up in bed or in my favourite armchair on a cold winter's evening... These ghost stories instantly grab you with the mysteries they relate but their interest lies in the Gothic but cosy Victorian atmosphere they convey (contrary to most Victorian or Gothic books) and James' laughing-aloud satirical style. James is obviously poking fun at his contemporaries and his character portrayal is a delight. All in all, an intelligent, extremely funny set of stories and an exciting travel back in time experience. A true gem of a book!