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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 15 January 2011
Two of the stories in this collection (The Signalman and The Trial For Murder) are, as you might expect of a Dickens ghost story, beautiflly told and well plotted (with a twist in the tale of each naturally), and there is barely a spare word here to interfere with the progress of the narrative. The third part of the colelction, 'The Haunted House' is a real oddity though. It just seems disjointed, as though Dickens got half way though and couldn't quite figure out how to finish it. Well, that didn't seem...like him, so I did some research, and I now blame whoever edited this collection: what we have here is part one and part seven of a portmanteau of stories originally published in a magazine in 1859, in which five other authors (including Mrs. Gaskell and Wilkie Collins) contributed the other parts. However, those parts are - disappointingly - missing here (they are available free elsewhere on the web).

I'd urge you to download this little collection anyway though: you do get two cracking bits of Dickens for free after all.
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The stories contained in this collection are The Signalman, The Haunted House, and The Trial For Murder. Leaving aside the Kindle edition for now, the first story is a famous classic, and in my view one of the finest ghost stories ever written. It has been anthologised many times, and deservedly so, so you may find it in a collection if you find the other two not to your taste. The second story, The Haunted House, is the real weakest link. It begins quite promisingly, Chapter One being devoted to the narrator and his household moving into a reputedly haunted house, the problems they experience with staff and finally their replacing the servants with a house-party of volunteers intent on solving the problems of the place. They vow only to speak of any paranormal experience at a gathering on the final night of their stay. The second chapter is devoted to the narrator's experience in what was a child's room, in which is related a tale of that child's schooldays. It's a fairly good story, and has also been anthologised as a stand-alone story. But it ends rather abruptly, and so does the Haunted House narrative, without no resolution or continuation. I don't know if the author died before completion, but it reads as if it were meant to contain several stories from the house party, and was terminated after just this one for some reason. Nor is any of it really a ghost story. The final one, Trial For Murder, is, and has also seen publication in anthology form. A predictable story, it holds its own on the basis of the author's descriptive talents rather than the plot. Personally I'm looking for either a decent anthology with the first and last tales, or to find them as one-offs, since I don't feel like giving Kindle room to the second, but others may like it better.
As for the Kindle formatting, it is pretty good, with only a very small number of typos which don't detract from it, and there is an interactive contents page so you can jump to any story of the three.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 October 2012
The Signalman is one of the creepiest stories I've ever read... and I've read a lot of creepy tales. It's the implication of the main character's involvement that haunts the reader, the question if the terrible event would have happened had he not interfered.

Charles Dickens' writing style in the "Signalman" feels more antiquated than in some of his other books, with long-winded sentences and slow pace. This may not appeal to all modern readers.

But the plot is as compelling as ever, masterfully crafted, simple and powerful.

The other two stories are not bad either, but it is "The Signalman" that's my favourite. If you haven't read it yet, here's your chance to get it free.
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on 24 April 2012
I got this partly because it was free and partly due to the fact that I had never read Dickens, and not read a ghost story for some years. This was a nice introduction to Dickens, and a welcome return to a genre I have left for way too long.
The stories are not over long, and are entertaining and at times, downright odd. The story of the haunted house gets downright bizarre and reminded me of HP Lovecraft at times.

Given it's free and its Dickens - you can't really go wrong
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on 10 October 2013
This is the spooky Dickens at his classic best in two cases (The Signalman and The Trial for Murder, but spoiled by The Haunted House, which I'm sure had satirical relevance in its day, but which came across as long and boring. Still, 2 out of 3 ain't bad!
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on 6 August 2016
The Signalman is a classic ghost story and The Trial for Murder is pretty decent. The Haunted House is rather wierd however. It is fragmentary and hard to follow but, as another reviewer has pointed out, we seem to have only those bits of this story written by Dickens here. Perhaps the full story makes more sense.
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on 26 January 2014
I must confess that Dickens is an author I have avoided reading since an abortive attempt at studying his 'Hard Times' at school. I found his writing style heavy-going, with tortuous sentences and long, descriptive passages that seemed to take the story nowhere. Or, at least, that is how I remember it. And then there is the sheer length of most of his novels ...

All of which is a good reason for reading some of his short stories as a way to get into Dickens. This Kindle edition compiling three of his many ghost stories has certainly made me rethink my view of Dickens and the accessibility of his writing.

The opening story - 'The Signal Man' (1866) - is justly celebrated and is one with which I should have been familiar, having read it as a youth in a compendium of ghost tales. However, I could recall little of the story after so many years. It uses the lonely location of a railway signal box set in a deep cutting and thereby removed from the general bustle of daily life, and the story blends the uncanny with the everyday. The chill of the tale lies in the premonitions that the ghost or spectre brings to the signalman, and exactly what event it foretells. Dickens' style here is a clear, descriptive reporting of the story's sequence of events, as though taken from a writer's journal.

'The Signal Man' is more a tale of the uncanny than a horror story, with the supernatural elements underplayed and their import very much left to the reader to work out. It is all the better for this, and the story stays with you for some time after reading.

The second, and longest story is 'The Haunted House' (1859). What is presented here is, in fact, just two parts of an eight-part portmanteau story written by Dickens and five other authors (including Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell). Dickens wrote the opening episode,'The Mortals in the House', which sets the scene for the seven individual accounts that follow, each one telling of an occupant's experience of their stay in a haunted house over the Christmas holiday. Here we find much more evidence of the 'difficult' writing style that I associate with Dickens, with sentences so long on occasions that he has to use several colons, semi-colons, and dashes to punctuate them.

Dickens also wrote the sixth episode - 'The Ghost in Master B's Room' - as well as the closing one ('The Ghost in the Corner Room') that is omitted here. In a 2002 review in The Guardian of the complete portmanteau collection, Nicholas Lezard wrote of Dickens' episode 'The Ghost in Master B's Room' that it "is quite unlike anything you may have ever read by him; it seems to have been the product of an extended hallucination, and I can hardly make head nor tail of it, except towards the end."

Reading just two parts of a much longer work, I found the story rather disjointed and it feels unfinished, incomplete (which, of course, it is). The narrative wanders and takes us into a nocturnal dream world that is the writer's childhood, and just when you think he has lost the plot you find that he has taken you to what is actually haunting, yet real.

It is, however, a much lighter tale of ghosts and hauntings and there is more of a jocular, jovial feel to the supernatural aspects of the story. This is, after all, one of a series of Christmas tales that Dickens wrote - it was published in the 1859 Extra Christmas Number of a weekly periodical, 'All the Year Round' - and you feel the cheer of the season rather than the chill of horror.

The final story is 'The Trial for Murder' (1865). The ghost in this short story is that of a murdered man who appears to the Foreman of the Jury at the trial of his assassin. What is uncanny is that the Foreman had previously seen the apparition twice before being summoned for jury service: the first time pursuing his killer down the street outside the Foreman's house, the second time beckoning within his house on the eve of the jury summons. Like 'The Signal Man', it is told in economic style and is relatively quick and easy to read. Dickens does not over-egg the horror and his narrator describes events as objectively as he can, without interpretation or judgement - which are left to the reader. 'The Trial for Murder' and 'The Signal Man' are similar in this respect, and eschew the wit, humour and moral reasoning that characterises much of Dickens' work. However, like 'The Haunted House', they too were written for the Christmas extra issues of 'All the Year Round', in 1865 and 1866. Both lack the direct references to Christmastime that are found in 'The Haunted House' and of course, 'A Christmas Carol', Dickens' most celebrated ghost story.
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on 31 July 2011
The Signalman is one of the finest ghost stories I have ever read. truly atmospheric and chilling on a dark winter evening...
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on 17 June 2014
Three short ghost stories to be found here. The Signalman and Trial for Murder are both excellent. The Haunted House veers off into abstract territory and ends weakly. In a rare occurrence the BBC adaptation of the Signalman is better than this story and well worth watching. Most enjoyable if one fancies a little Dickens without having to give up weeks of one's life.
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on 4 June 2015
I loved the typical Dickens style of writing, filled with irony and sarcasm, and the stories were quite good, but I felt they lacked a compelling climax. I felt a little let down at the end of each.
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