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This review is from: The Beast With Five Fingers (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural) (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural) (Paperback)Warning: this review contains spoilers.
The story which gives this collection its title, 'The Beast with Five Fingers', is probably the best known by author W.F.Harvey, having appeared in anthologies as well as being the basis of cinema and radio adaptations. In fact, it was listening to a dramatisation on BBC7 that prompted me to seek out this volume in Wordsworth Editions excellent 'Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural' series.
Harvey's straightforward matter-of-fact style goes some way to lessening the potential risibility of 'The Beast with Five Fingers'. However, I found other of the stories to be more effective: 'The Clock' concerns a single item left in an unoccupied house; in 'The Tool' a memory loss has appalling consequences; 'The Ankardyne Pew' in which the effects of a brutal event linger on years after it occurred.
The stories I enjoyed most were the 'Twelve Strange Cases' which deal with deaths that have occurred in mysterious circumstances and are narrated by a nurse based on her own casebook notes. These comments are typical of her no-nonsense approach: "She could do little more in an emergency than telephone for the doctor and wring her hands" (p377); "Whenever I gave her her medicine she always asked me if I had shaken the bottle. I wish I could have shaken the woman instead; it would have done her all the good in the world" (pp390-391).
Some of the stories in the middle of the book do not fall into the 'mystery' or 'supernatural' category. 'A Middle-Class Tragedy' concerns an incompatible couple who realise that separation is not always the best option and in 'The Fern', a solitary botanist hopes to discover a rare species.
Not in the front rank of 'ghost stories' but an enjoyable collection nonetheless.
The Beast With Five Fingers (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural) (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural)(2 customer reviews)