Chris Priestley - Tales of Terror from the Black Ship (3 stars)

Chris Priestley - Tales of Terror from the Black Ship

(Bloomsbury)

GHOST STORIES

The great English chiller writer MR James observed that one of the key facets of a good, nerve-shredding ghost story is ‘a pleasing terror’. Chris Priestley’s follow-up to the imaginative Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror similarly aims to hook younger readers with a series of unnerving, yet entertaining, ghost stories set at sea. Like that earlier book, this collection features a wraparound story, this time involving a sickly brother and sister left alone at a storm-lashed inn. A stranger knocks at the door, his only means of payment for their hospitality some eerie stories from his sea-faring days. Inevitably, all is not as it seems.

Like the best of James’ work, the terror in Priestley’s tales is derived from a creeping sense of unease or suggestion of the supernatural rather than explicit bloodletting. Some of the stories are a touch formulaic, their final twists all too easy to anticipate, yet Priestley is adept at creating a suitably creepy atmosphere, and his lightness of touch as a writer keeps the pages turning long into the night.

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