The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Volume 3
Edited by Simon Stern
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
I love ghost stories. I always did. Actually British ghost stories were my first step – first as a reader, then as a reviewer – towards dark fiction in general. Thus, an anthology like this (the third one in a successful series) is a veritable feast to me.
Never mind if most of the authors (including the inevitable Anonymous) are either unknown or forgotten. The genre and the atmosphere are what really matters to the ghost story fan.
The present volume collects twenty Victorian tales, previously published in various magazines between 1871 and 1896, covering the different shades of the ghost story, from the suspenseful to the humorous, offering something for any taste. And, according to my own taste, the more accomplished stories – although all the included material is worth reading – are briefly mentioned here.
“The Ghost of the Cross-Roads” by Frederick Manley is the disquieting report of a dangerous game of cards with an unearthly adversary, while “19, Great Hanover Street” by Lillie Harris is a conventional, yet very effective ghost story addressing the time-honored subject of the haunted house.
Mrs JH Riddell contributes the delightful “Walnut-Tree House,” an engrossing story told in a straightforward, quite convincing fashion, and Hugh Conway provides “A Dead Man’s Face,” a superb ghostly tale revolving around a terrifying appearance disclosing a past, unknown tragedy.
J W Hollingsworth’s “Miriam’s Ghost” is a traditional, enjoyable piece where a haunted room reveals a complex family history, including ancient skeletons and a hidden treasure.
“The Vicar’s Ghost,” penned by Lucy Farmer is another neat story, blending ghostly elements and crime.
“A Spirit Bride” by Andrew Haggard is a very unusual, if not downright bizarre ghost story, making suspension of disbelief hard to maintain, yet extremely entertaining.
Highly recommended to the genre lovers.