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4.4 out of 5 stars
Tales of Unease (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2007
Thank you Wordsworth for making this excellent collection of stories available. They are consistantly good and are best enjoyed in the dark on a wintry night beside a roaring log fire (or cheaper/ more environmentally friendly alternative).

I 've always enjoyed Conan Doyle, he's a very accessible writer who knows how to tell a good, effective yarn without getting bogged down with too much discription. He gets right to the point. Yes, he created Sherlock Holmes and found fame with that creation but these tales are unjustly sidelined by the the violin-playing, cocaine-taking super-sleuth. For just a couple of quid you can have these stories that are as far away from Mrs Hudson and the cosy interior of Baker Street as it is possible to get.

Consider a torn and blooded manuscript found in a field that tells a tale of high-altitude life forms attacking a pioneering 'aero-naut', Consider the tale of love, revenge and eternal life that takes place in the Louvre and witnessed by an English accademic or how about a vast subterranean cave system that is stalked by....by what exactly? All compelling, thrilling and weird in equal measure. Sometimes it is easy to see what is coming, but actually this makes the stories even more intriguing as you ask yourself, 'how exactly will this unfold?'

The two masterpieces of this collection are 'The Captain Of The Polestar' that draws on Conan Doyle's early experiences on a Whaling ship in the Frozen wastes of the Arctic, and Lot No. 249 which you won't be forgetting in a hurry.

Highly recommended. You can't really go wrong at this price anyway.

Incidentally, three of the stories can be found on the NAXOS audio 'Four Short Stories - read by the excellent Carl Rigg'. Worth hunting down that one. Also, If these stories are your cup of tea, check out 'The Wordsworth Book of Horror Stories (ISBN: 1840220562)It has all of 'TALES OF UNEASE' in it as well as All the M.R. James stories, some Sheridan Le Fanu, W. W. Jacobs, Ambrose Bierce and many others. A great introduction.

The Stories included in Tales Of Unease are:

The Brazilian Cat ****
The Ring Of Thoth ****
The Lord Of Chateau Noir *****
The New Catecomb *****
The Case Of Lady Sannox ****
The Brown Hand ****
The Horror Of The Heights ***** (On NAXOS cd)
The Terror Of Blue John Gap ***** (On NAXOS cd)
The Captain Of The Polestar *****
How It Happened ****
Playing With Fire *****
The Leather Funnel ****
Lot NO. 249 ***** (On NAXOS cd)
The Los Amigos Fiasco ****
The Nightmare Room *****
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2008
This book is not a comforting read, especially if you have preconceptions based on Sir Arthur's famous sleuth. I was surprised by how violent, sadistic and shocking the tales were. They did not seem dated at all. "Lot No 249" is the masterpiece of the collection, creating some unforgettable images and a real sense of fear. If you like cosy, safe tales, then go nowhere near "The Case of Lady Sannox" and "The Lord of Chateau Noir." If Conan Doyle had only written these tales he would still be worth remembering.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2010
Four stars for the collection of stories, but the full five for Editor and Introduction writer David Stuart Davies for being just about the only Academic in living memory to assume the Commentator role in a volume of Vicwardian Supernatural Literature without imposing the usual socio-political guff on our collective past.

Davies enjoys the Fiction of the Fantastic in and of itself and sees no reason why the past should be judged and condemned in terms of how far short it falls of contemporary mores - he is a true scholar in fact, but can also point up how Conan Doyle pretty well set up the literary template for the Mummy horror film genre.

Davies writes with authority in good Plain English and his judgement is sound (but on no account read the second section of the introduction before reading the stories themselves).

The stories collected together here pretty well sum up Doyle's potential, both fulfilled and squandered; perhaps the most versatile but thinly spread of major British Writers, he could have undoubtedly assumed Poe's coronet if he had focussed more on the Fantastic (never neglecting Holmes, of course) but the multi-faceted Doyle never could stay in one place for very long in any area of his life.

Any Holmes aficionado will also be aware of the extraordinary chronological range of Doyle's work, and we journey here from the text book Victorian atmospherics of the 1880s to a final 1921 story that, if you were to blind test it, I am sure would leave everyone failing to guess which apparent contemporary of Scott Fitzgerald wrote it.

A mini strand I found particularly interesting were a couple of `spiritualist' short stories - `Playing with Fire' sets up with expert economy a typical cross section of Victorian Séance enthusiasts (I had read Ronald Pearsall's excellent factual account `Table-rappers: The Victorians and the Occult' immediately prior to this volume - it dovetails) before embarking on a very interesting spirit dialogue (I found this the most fascinating part of the book) leading to the alarming dénouement. This is followed by `The Leather Funnel', which in the first few paragraphs describes the character, career and demise of a Parisian Black Magician that another accomplished writer could and should turn into an entire novel. And THEN the story starts.

In fact, as the ever reliable Davies points out, Conan Doyle was a cinematic writer before (mainly) Cinema, and this volume, from its haunted Polar landscapes to the Occult abodes of sinister scholars, would, I am sure, provide a marvellously rich little source volume for any putative Horror/Supernatural Cine-Director.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2010
This is a fine collection of tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) who is, of course, most famous for his Sherlock Holmes stories. Doyle however wrote in a range of different genres, among which are these collected "Tales of Unease".

The tales included are:

The Ring Of Thoth
The Lord Of Chateau Noir
The New Catacomb
The Case Of Lady Sannox
The Brazilian Cat
The Brown Hand
The Horror Of The Heights
The Terror Of Blue John Gap
The Captain Of The Polestar
How It Happened
Playing With Fire
The Leather Funnel
Lot No. 249
The Los Amigos Fiasco
The Nightmare Room

This is an excellent bedside book for dark winters evenings. Highly recommended.
Also of interest may be The Complete Ghost Stories of M R James.

For those interested in Sherlock Holmes, I recommend Sherlock Holmes 6-Book Boxed Set (Collector's Library).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
What you get for your money:-
The Ring of Thoth. (1890) A big influence on Boris Karloff's 1932 film "The Mummy".
The Lord of Château Noir. (1894)
The New Catacomb. (1898)
The Case of Lady Sannox. (1893)
The Brazilian Cat. (1908)
The Brown Hand. (1899)
The Horror of the Heights. (1913) Doyle does science fiction.
The Terror of the Blue John Gap. (1910)
The Captain of the Polestar. (1883)
How It Happened. (1913) A most delightful story only three pages long, but it's dénouement may be a little old hat for modern tastes.
Playing With Fire. (1900)
The Leather Funnel. (1900)
Lot No.249. (1894) Rudyard Kipling apparently had his first nightmare in years reading this. The longest story in this collection and arguably the best.
The Los Amigos Fiasco. (1892) Another story that found it's way to Hollywood, as the Boris Karloff 1936 film "The Walking Dead".
The Nightmare Room. (1921)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2012
There seems to be a consensus amongst critics that Conan Doyle spread himself a little too thinly in his choices of literary style and subject; this collection admittedly displays that lack of focus as a few of the stories are, by the author's usual high standards, a little pedestrian. However, at this price I would certainly recommend purchasing this collection for such gems as 'The Brazilian Cat', 'The Captain of the Polestar' and 'Lot 249' - all classics of the genre and perhaps a little overlooked so they may all be as new to you as they were to me. You will be surprised by just how 'inspirational' these stories have been for writers and film directors over the last hundred years!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 December 2012
A bit dissapointed in several of the stories but i think thats probably because they didnt seem to me at least that they had stood the test of time very well
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on 5 October 2013
Conan Doyle seems to have sought out themes from contemporary deeds of discovery and exploration and used them as a backdrop to sinister happenings. The tales include the force emanating from a relic from an Egyptian tomb, the influence of Polar exploration on those exposed to its rigours, the peril attached to antique curios of uncertain provenance, archeological exploration as a pathway for revenge, As with the Holmes stories, the supporting detail is meticulous and well researched .
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2007
A worthwhile read - if just to read Lot No 249 - the basis of all the Mummy movies. This collection is perhaps not as well written as the Sherlock Holme stories, but nevertheless an interesting departure from Doyles most famous creation.
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on 14 July 2011
A collection of stories that not only encouraged the whole Ancient Egypt string in horror, but stands as an excellent example of horror thrillers. The vocabulary is beautifully turn of the century yet modern in pace and style. The stories of revenge are truly chilling. To us The Horror Of The Heights may seem dated from our knowledge of aviation but as a techno thriller in an unknown environment it stands comparison with any. There is not one weak story.
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