The five macabre tales in Gaskin’s fourth story collection (after The Master of the House) give a pleasing antiquarian spin to their contemporary incidents. The title tale, a short novel, is a discursive murder mystery that begins with the theft of antique coins from an old English church, ends with the discovery of a literal skeleton in the closet, and en route to its finale offers quaint and colorful character studies of the eccentric academics at an Oxford college who are enmeshed in the events. “Near Berwick” tells of a man who makes the grave mistake of renewing the acquaintance of a fellow student who humiliated him at college, and “Conditions” of an inherited sculpture endowed with dark powers. “Faces in a Garden,” about a strange influence that imbues a neglected garden, has a classic weird fiction vibe, and “Deadwater” builds on imagery from the Keats poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” for its account of a young man’s unfortunate romantic assignation. Gaskin is subtle and indirect in his approach to the uncanny, and the rich atmosphere he builds in his stories makes them enjoyable for fans of classic weird tales. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 10/15/2019 Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror
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