R.I.P. II Challenge #2
This volume contains fourteen short stories, two novellas, and chills aplenty. The Erlking adds a new character to the pantheon of childhood bogeymen. In The New Daughter, malevolent forces prey on the inhabitants of an old rectory. Deep Dark Green tells of the biggest danger to swimmers sinceJaws. In The Shifting of the Sands a churchman is faced with gods far older than his. In The Inkpot Monkey, a writer finds his inspiration and loses something else. The Underbury Witches features an English village where chauvinism may well be a capital offence. And in the novella The Reflecting Eye, private investigator Charlie Parker is hired to find out who has been showing an unhealthy interest in the house of a dead child killer, crossing paths with a debt collector you don’t want to meet.
I signed up for the R.I.P. II Challenge partly as an excuse to read this; and now that I’ve finally gotten round to doing so I’ve found that it was another ideal selection. I did, however, make a mistake on the day I started it. Having not read as much as I’d hoped to do during the day, I had the bright idea of reading a bit more while watching the evening news. An hour later, it was full dark outside and I was getting a tiny bit jumpy, at which point I cravenly abandoned it in favour of Ben Jonson. After that, I saved it for daylight hours, where it turned out to be quite useful; shivers down the spine are good at counteracting 33 degree heat. The stories were all fun to read (fun if you like being spooked, that is) but I did notice several definite patterns. First-person male narrators; churchmen and/or church buildings; things from underground; children who were lost, stolen or strayed. And the biggest one of all: evil undestroyed. Abated, maybe, but many of the chills come from the fact that usually, something bad continues. That I didn’t mind, as it enhanced the creepiness; but the others left me wishing for a little more variety. On the bright side (if one can use such a phrase here) the writing shifts from British to American English, depending on the setting of the story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done anywhere else, and thought it a nice touch.
Although it wasn’t my favourite story of the lot, The Ritual of the Bones contained the thing that delighted me most. It was set at the exclusive Montague School, and in keeping with that name, those running the ritual all had literary names: Burrage and Bierce, Dickens and James, Hyde and Lovecraft and Poe. (I do wonder, though ... is that a reference to Henry James, or M. R. James?)