- 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)
The Beast with Five Fingers (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural) Paperback – 5 May 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"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.