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VINE VOICEon 23 February 2009
I agree with `Good Book Fan' that AC is preferable to RH. But although AC's stories are quite effective individually they are highly repetitive - again and again we heard about haunted or unlucky buildings or places, men who were irresistibly tempted to pry into their secrets, strange goat-like beasts and (usually) last minute rescues/redemptions.

My favourite tale was `The Uttermost Farthing' and I wondered whether A C Benson had based his hero, Bendyshe, on Henry James (with whom he was acquainted) as the account of Bendyshe's house and habits reminded me strongly of contemporary accounts of Henry James at Lamb House in Rye.

The idea behind `The Traveller' was ingenious but the best tale by RH was, I thought, the atmospheric and mysterious `The Blood-Eagle'. To sum up, this isn't a bad collection but there are plenty of better uncanny stories from the period - the Kipling volume in the same Wordsworth series is really outstanding, for example.
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on 23 February 2011
Those unfortunate enough (me included) to have missed out the excellent Ash Tree Press book "Ghosts in the House" containing some of the best stories written by the lesser known Benson brothers, can draw some solace from the ownership of this slim volume. The stories included in this volume are dividable into 2 distinct parts. The first part comprising some of the stories by A.C. Benson, has the following short tales:
1. The Temple of Death: a musing on the nature of fear and the tussle between different faiths in the pagan days, with ample dosage of suspense and good story-telling.
2. The Closed Window (included in GITH): A superb & chilling story that can be called a true companion to best of M.R. James tales.
3. The Slype House (included in GITH): A fable, with enough horror in it to make it distinct.
4. The Red Camp (included in GITH): A gothic tale with its appendages (e.g. recurring dream, desire conflicting with virtue, regal gestures. etc.) that, nevertheless, succeeds in portraying the horror felt by the protagonist.
5. Out of the Sea (included in GITH): A terrific and spine-chilling story of redemption & retribution that would have made, and would make, any writer proud.
6. The Gray Cat (included in GITH): Another good & solid horrific story, shaped like a fable, but one which packs a lot of punch.
7. The Hill of Trouble (included in GITH): A brilliant story, with those features whose presence had made the post-gothic supernatural stories so attractive in those days.
8. Basil Netherby (included in GITH): This is one of the best horror stories that I have read, and this story can deservedly walk into any anthology of "the very best of" classic supernatural horror.
9. The Uttermost Farthing (included in GITH): Another top-notch story that would offer those pleasing terrors so looked for by the readers of M.R. James.
Unfortunately, after this high of average to exceptional stories, we are forced to suffer a bunch of frankly sub-par stories written by R.C Benson, who appears to have forgotten that he was writing "stories" and goes into the sermonising groove from the beginning. The stories are:
1) The Watcher (included in GITH).
2) The Blood-Eagle (included in GITH).
3) Consolatrix Afflictorum.
4) Over The Gateway.
5) Father Meuron's Tale (included in GITH).
6) Father Macclesfield's Tale (included in GITH).
7) The Traveller (included in GITH).
The book is great on value-terms, and it loses the only star because of R.H. Benson, and not because of any fault on its own part. Nevertheless, recommended for the 1st part alone.
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on 25 July 2012
I am a great admirer of this range of books but I fear this collection of two Benson siblings will be of only limited appeal to fans of `classic ghost' stories. The 16 tales across 219 well-edited pages are sound & well-written but may prove alien to the taste of modern readers mainly due to the preachy style of many of the tales.

The works by AC Benson fit more squarely into the category of supernatural tales and combine preachy themes of good & evil. The Temple of Death & The Grey Cat are stand out examples & would hold their own in most anthologies. Readers will doubtless find much enjoyment in this Victorian/Edwardian tales but as you would expect, much of the ground is well-trodden & the strong religious undertone, although of its time, may not be to everyone's taste.

The religious (Catholic) tone of RH Benson's work is a dominant one, with tales such as Consolatrix Afflictorum moving into the realms of preachy, sugar-sweet story-telling. These stories are of course quite in keeping with the author's career in the priesthood & therefore do offer an interesting insight, particularly bearing in mind his conversion from Anglican to Catholic.

Overall I think this is a good selection of the authors' works but these stories have not dated well & just about justify their own collection.

Still, maybe worth a few candlelight evenings to browse the best ones.
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on 14 November 2008
Any short story collection is going to have stories of varying quality, but this collection takes it to extremes- it is a book of two halves. The first half by A.C Benson is consistently good with tales from different eras- Roman, Medieval to the then modern. "Basil Netherby" and "The Uttermost Farthing" are particularly effective, in the classic English ghost story tradition. Up to this point I greatly enjoyed the book. Unfortunatley, R.H. Benson's stories didn't work for me. The writer seemed more interested in his religous convictions than telling a good story and the stories themselves, were conventional and uninspiring with only "The Traveller" and the "The Watcher" rising above the general level.
I would rate the first half as well worth four stars; the second two stars, so I'll compromise with three stars for the whole book. Enjoy A.C. and endure R.H.
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