cover image The Ballet of Dr. Caligari and Madder Mysteries

The Ballet of Dr. Caligari and Madder Mysteries

Reggie Oliver. Tartarus, $50 (312p) ISBN 978-1-912586-08-0

Oliver’s eighth collection (after Holidays from Hell) offers 13 exceptional eerie stories. Of particular interest is “The Game of Bear,” a completion of an unfinished tale by ghost story master M.R. James, which concerns a man who increasingly senses that he’s being haunted by the specter of a dead cousin from whom he was estranged. In “The Devil’s Funeral,” a clergyman’s series of dreams about a funeral procession conducted as part of an old folk ritual begin to resonate with worsening menacing events that occur around his parish. Oliver’s experiences as a playwright and actor show in several of the best selections, including the title tale, in which a musician composes the score for a stage ballet based on the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; the relationship between the musician and the choreographer who commissioned it begins to resemble that between the film’s titular doctor and his hapless victim. Also notable is “The Vampyre Trap,” a theatrical locked-room mystery. Oliver carefully seeds his plots with subtle hints and portents of the horrors to come that make them all the more terrifying when they manifest. This volume is essential reading for aficionados of classic weird fiction. (Mar.)