I enjoyed the tone and gentle pace of these stories. The writing is sometimes beautifully evocative, of a mannered gentility and works well with the overall structure of the stories conveying to the reader a studied consideration of the strangeness inherent in objects, houses and nature. That said however the opening paragraphs of most of them are so formulaic as to become extremely annoying after a while....the Connoisseur seems forever to be standing at his fire or looking out of his windows or handling a curio...it's always Winter.. he's always sipping at some decadent concoction...I wanted to say to the narrator... "Visit him in Summer!" These are but small concerns but they stopped me from giving the volume five stars. If you can get over the beginnings The Collected Connoisseur is a good collection of tales. Recommended.
Mark Valentine, and his unique "occult detective" the Connoisseur, are well-known to all lovers of supernatural. The characteristic features of Valentine's fiction (in rather commercial terms which may be described even as his USP) can be summarised as under: -
1) The fiction is gently paced, without ever being hurried into any conclusion, but rather enjoying the building up of that rarity: atmosphere, as well as the characters.
2) The stories are invariably haunting and almost unearthly in their delicacy and austerity of language.
3) The horrors that are there (apart from the almost palpable pain & suffocation that gets built up inside our chests as we 'walk-the-talk' with the Connoisseur) are lurking in the corners of our eyes, and never in-our-face.
4) The characters are real, despite their surroundings and circumstances often being strange (to say the least), and they act in a realistic way, with real fears, vanity, pain and longing.
Tartarus Press has done their usual accurate and pleasing job in bringing out this paperback, but they deserve much more than simple gratitude if you consider the fact that all the other books containing stories involving the Connoisseur are now out-of-print and are available only at obscenely high prices. Highly recommended.
The Collected Connoisseur is a selection of short stories, charting the adventures of an "occult detective" and his un-named assistant.
These tales are subtle, arcane, penetrating stories that haunt long after they are read. Steeped in atmosphere, this book will appeal to those who are themselves aesthetes. Forgotten objects, histories or philosophies, things which exist in the cracks or spaces between day to day life and the fantastic.
This is a collection that comes very highly recommended by this reader.