read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship

My final book for the Halloween challenge I've been doing was Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley, his second book of creepy stories, the first being Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror.

The storm of the century is raging. Cathy and Ethan live with their father in The Old Inn which perches on top of a cliff, attached to the mainland of Cornwall by only a very narrow path. In a storm like this they are, to all intents and purposes, cut off. Which presents a problem. Both children are very sick indeed and need a doctor. Their father goes out into the tempest to fetch one, leaving the children alone. He's gone for a very long time and Cathy and Ethan become well enough to get up. They want to go and find him but the storm is still raging. Suddenly, there is a loud knock on the door - they have a visitor, one Jonah Thackeray, a sailor.

Thackeray keeps the children company through the night, regaling them with macabre stories of a very grisly nature. They hear about vampire passengers, sea snails on the march (ugh, ugh UGH!), murders, ghostly black ships, a strange child cast adrift in a dinghy and picked up by the crew of a ship, a weird piece of scrimshaw carved with a scene that changes according to where the owner is, and so on. And then there's the final twist involving the two children listening to the tales...

I think, for me, that author Chris Priestley is one of my discoveries of the year. His simply told but creepier than creepy stories are just fantastic. There are no happy endings here, these stories are meant to chill, and chill they do. I loved the first book in his ghostly series, Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, but this one is even better. Possibly that's because I do love a sea-faring story, I'm not sure, I just know that I was blown away by this group of stories, beautifully written in the best tradition of ghost story telling. I already have his third book, Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth and like Black Ship it's calling to me and I'm having trouble resisting. It would make brilliant Christmas reading but I'm not sure if I can hold out that long.
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