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This review is from: Tales of Terror from the Black Ship (Paperback)
Ethan and Cathy are two children living in an old inn, perched precariously on a cliff top. When they fall suddenly ill during a heavy storm, their father admonishes them to let nobody in, and rushes off to find a doctor. Suddenly there is a knock on the door, and Ethan taking pity on the young man standing outside, lets him in. To pass the time until their father returns, the stranger tells them some strange and terrifying sea-faring tales.
This is a collection of self-contained short stories within the larger narration concerning the children and the mysterious stranger. The atmosphere of disquiet and occasionally genuine terror conjured up by Chris Priestley is wonderful, creating a very enjoyable feeling of unease and foreboding, and his joy of storytelling is obvious. As Cathy puts it in response to one of the mysterious visitor's tales, "But I do so love to be frightened!" I have to marvel at the author's dark mind, being able to produce such spine-chilling tales, an ability he also demonstrates with his novella The Dead of Winter. The stories are enhanced by David Roberts' bleak and sinister illustrations. I'm just annoyed that the editor or publisher didn't notice that one of the illustrations at the very beginning of the book in effect gives away the twist at the end; I could still enjoy the skill of the narration but the "heart-stopping revelation" came as no surprise. I also couldn't help noticing that the illustrator pre-empts the conclusion to another of the tales, so that what was supposed to be a moment of shock had already been anticipated. I suppose that not every reader will pick up on those small details, but this will slightly mar the enjoyment of an otherwise excellent book for the keen observer. Bloomsbury have put a warning to younger readers on the back cover that this is a seriously scary book and I wholeheartedly agree; some of the tales are really quite disturbing and would not be suitable for a young readership, even I found a couple of the stories hard to stomach. Well worth re-reading again and again.