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The Beast with Five Fingers (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural) Paperback – 5 May 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions (5 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840221798
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840221794
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 791,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First things first; the title story of this collection is not representative of the contents. Tales of the supernatural contained within are a minority and most of those deal with the subject in an oblique manner. The majority of the remainder are little mysteries, some dramatic, others humorous and the remaining stories are little vignettes of life in general, the kind that don't readily fall into any particular category.

What they all have in common is that they're written with such elegance and style that you wonder how on earth Harvey has remained such a secret for so long. In his introduction David Stuart Davies says there isn't a dud among these 40+ stories and I'm inclined to agree. After the initial disappointment of finding that this collection was not quite what I'd expected I realised that I had instead found something rather more unique and interesting.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In short it is worth buying this book simply because it contains the story 'The Clock', the best ghost story ever written and I say that based on having been reading such tales for over half a century. I started reading them in an allegedly haunted cottage, and my bedroom looked out onto a churchyard!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great collection of long out of print stories. 20 Feb. 2013
By Robert Connelly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great collection of short fiction by W.F. Harvey, a writer whose career spanned the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. One of the pleasures of this collection is that Harvey worked in several diffferent genres. Some of his stories are gentle portraits of village life, others are satires of detective and supernatural fiction, He writes short sketches where seemingly inconsequential events change a character's life. There are several striking ghost stories in the collection, but my personal favorites are the twelve linked mystery stories that conclude the book. Harvey was a doctor who saw service in World War One. He used his medical training and skill in observation to create the character of a perceptive, middle aged nurse who solved the mysteries that were part of her patient's lives.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Quality Paperback - Good Value 22 Mar. 2014
By L. Columbus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just a quick review of the physical product, not the written content. These Wordsworth Editions are quite nice, providing lots of obscure weird fiction authors, at great values. They are large format paperbacks. The cover artwork is elegant and the skull logo in the upper lefthand corner is slightly embossed. While they are not on par with offerings from collectible genre fiction small press companies, you can't complain for the price.
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master of Strange Stories 15 Oct. 2009
By adrian weil - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
William Fryer Harvey's short stories are dark, ambivalent, murderous & sometimes slyly humorous. In this regard, he pre-dates Robert Aickman. Like some of Aickman's best tales - "Trains" & "Bind your hair" spring to mind - quite a few of Harvey's best tales are based around wanderings and the strange encounters that ensue. In "The Tool" a man takes a walking tour and somehow loses a day, a day in which a heinous crime has been committed; perhaps by the narrator? In "The Hearthside Fire", another murder is committed at midnight in an isolated public house on the moors & the perpetrator finds no rest ; in "August heat", a painter leaves his garret, goes for a stroll and is astonished to meet the murderously visaged person he has just painted an hour before. It's a dangerous business stepping beyond your doorstep, as Bilbo Baggins once observed. There is also the title story, which is one of the slickest black comedies since "Arsenic & old lace"; the "Follower" & "Miss Avenal", which are respectively a tale of elliptic horror a la Conrad & a tale of psychic vampirism. All of these tales were written in the Twenties & Thirties. The prose is clear, and always in the service of telling a lean story. I've read and re-read these stories many times with growing pleasure & appreciation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hidden gem 11 Sept. 2013
By Cee* - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read too many ghost/horror stories to count. I discovered Mr. Harvey in a collection of short stories. The story I read was so delightfully creepy, I had to google him! I immediately went to Amazon to order one of his collection and I have been pleasantly delighted with his talent for writing good and creepy stories. I believe that anyone who truly loves the paranormal will enjoy WF Harvey as much as Poe, Lovecraft, King or any of the other talented writers of the scare!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than "August Heat" 22 Feb. 2014
By Craig Payne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Meh--only so-so," I thought after finishing the Oliver Onions collection. "I'm finished with ghost stories for a while; if I want scary tales, I'll go back and re-read M.R. James for the fiftieth time. Well, just one more; this one looks interesting, and I remember liking 'August Heat' from the hundred or so anthologies that include it--so we'll give Harvey a try." And I am very glad I did.

"August Heat" is, of course, the most well-known of these stories. However, I was quite pleased to discover that not only the quality, but the technique, of that deservedly famous vignette is sustained throughout this collection. If you've read that story, you will remember that what really happens, the truly unnerving part, takes place after the story ends. (If you haven't read it, I absolutely do not want to give away anything.) In this collection, Harvey uses that technique repeatedly in story after story: After you finish the story, you suddenly realize that you know, from slight hints dropped here and there, either what is going to happen, or what actually did happen. You've heard of "hiding in plain sight"? That's what these stories do.

For example, in "Mrs. Ormerod," after you finish the last sentence, it dawns upon you how terrible the title character is--that she is actually willing to sacrifice.... But there I go again. You'll just have to read it yourself.
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