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on 26 February 2008
Marjorie Bowen's classic story `The Crown Derby Plate' features in many ghost story anthologies but I imagine few readers will be familiar with her other supernatural tales. The 12 stories contained in this book are a fine representation of her mystery and supernatural output and feature beautiful and evocative descriptive passages that showcase her talent and flair for the macabre.

Bowen was noted for her superb descriptions of desolation and decay and these passages are plentiful in this collection. In `Florence Flannery' - "the November moon was high in a misted space of open heaven by the time he reached the old carp pond. Dead weeds tangled over the crumbling, moss-grown stone, trumpery and slime coated the dark waters". In `The Crown Derby Plate' - "the house sprang up suddenly on a knoll ringed with rotting trees, encompassed by an old brick wall that the perpetual damp had over-run with lichen, blue, green, white, colours of decay". These wonderfully suggestive portrayals of sombre decay add a deft poignancy to the tales.

As to the stories themselves, `Florence Flannery' is a particularly gruesome account of a bickering couple who find themselves the victims of a 300 year old revenge. The last two lines are grisly and repugnant in equal measure. `Kecksies' is another great story, featuring a dead man who switches places with a love rival and returns to exact terrible revenge and fulfil a vow he made before his death. `The Bishop of Hell' portrays a wicked, debauched man who gets his comeuppance and proves to his equally debauched friend that hell does indeed exist. `The Avenging of Ann Leete' tells the tale of Eneas Bretton's dead sweetheart and how he forces the murderer's soul to a confession. The conclusion is both tender and moving as the narrator sees Ann moving towards him in the gloom as Bretton sighs his last breath and prepares to meet his love on the other side.

A few of the tales are mystery stories rather than ghost stories and are probably the weaker points of the collection. `The Fair Hair of Ambrosine' is a skilfully penned tale but anyone versed in mystery stories will guess the ending three pages shy of its conclusion. Similarly, `Elsie's Lonely Afternoon' is a story of a trickster posing as a ghost but, as the title implies, conveys a real sense of childhood loneliness.

`The Bishop of Hell' is a very satisfying collection and Wordsworth should be congratulated for bringing out a series that focuses on single authors rather than simply re-hashing the typical ghost story anthology.
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on 21 June 2012
The answer is we can't & this representative collection of her best tales is a great step in getting Majorie Bowen the recognition she deserves.

Her dialogue is simple & easy to follow, making it the perfect bedtime read. Some of the tales are deceptive, almost innocent, made up of simple and often gothic elements of horror.

These are classic ghost stories, the way they are meant to be.
Women play key roles in most of the stories & as you read, you really feel that Bowen is one of the pioneers in writing stories in which women are well-represented rather than minor add-ons.

Her descriptions are powerful, her eye for detail incredible. She has a flair for the macabre but never overdoes it & as you would imagine, there are no floods of blood amongst these pages.

Highlights for me include the classic `Crown Derby Plate' - which sees a spooky story set on the marshes, with echoes of A Woman in Black - maybe this story was an inspiration for this the book. `The Bishop of Hell' was not my favourite story but is still powerful.

`The Avenging of Ann Leete' is one of the best of this fine collection, with the reader keep on the edge until the dramatic conclusion. It tells the tale of a mysterious but haunting painting & becomes a tragic tale of lost love....
With these tales, nothing is certain until the last page & even then, sometimes it is worth going back through these outstanding tales.

I have great admiration for the many female ghost story writers of this era & thoroughly recommend this superb volume to those who appreciate well-written & crafted tales of gentile horror.
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on 23 December 2007
The stories in The Bishop of Hell were Bowen's own choice of the best of her supernatural and uncanny tales. "The Crown Derby Plate" has to be one of the best, an excellently subtle ghost story about a visit to an all-but abandoned house on the marshes. There's also "Kecksies", which was chosen as the title story for Bowen's collection issued by the legendary Arkham House. Kecksies is a "rustic" name for hemlock, and the tale gives a good lesson (if one's really needed) in why one should never throw a corpse into a patch of that ill-favoured weed, even if done as part of a macabre jest. "Kecksies" is, like many of the tales in this volume, set in the latter part of the 18th century, an era Bowen has a peculiar affinity for, with its scoundrels and rakehells, its innocent women brought down by the same, and its less-than-innocent women who are no better. Not all of these tales are supernatural, but those that aren't still have a macabre weirdness just as strong as the genuinely ghostly ones.
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on 15 November 2007
I was inspired to read more of Bowen's work after reading "The Crown Derby Plate" in the Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories, and I found this truely chilling. The stories collected in this book are original and frightening, an absolute must for any horror fan. Well I say any fan, some of the stories are very descriptive but stick with them and they have brilliant twists and chills!!
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on 7 February 2016
I am very fond of ghost stories and was pleased to get this very inexpensive book by one of the masters, if a Victorian lady can be so described!
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on 15 June 2014
Lovely old-fashioned supernatural stories, just right for a rainy evening. I like this authors style and will read more of her books now.
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on 15 February 2012
I am a great fan of Gothic tales and this publisher really mines the genre, this book is worth buying just for the title. The stories can be a bit stilted, but well paced and atmospheric, remember, they were written many years ago, but they are still creepy, just becuase it is old don't mean it ain't good. Check out this publisher they have many more books, I own about ten now. I will buy more.
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on 21 March 2013
Ms Bowen's work turns up in various collections. This one-author book contains some not-so-good stuff, but generally, it's well-written. I suppose a few people, like myself, enjoy the meticulous style of the Victorian/Edwardian authors.
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