An interesting mix of tales for AudioGo’s latest Halloween collection of readings starts with Andrew Sachs reading M.R. James’s classic story Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook. James’s 1894 5,000 word story forms the first tale in the Ghost Stories of an Antiquary collection, which also includes the classic Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad. Like that better known story, it depends on the development of an atmosphere of dread, which Sachs brings to life well.
The other story on the first CD, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was written two years earlier than the James tale, and is a series of diary entries by a woman who it seems is slowly but surely descending into madness. Unlike its companion pieces in this collection, the story is open to numerous levels of interpretation, but certainly the impression given by Laurel Lefkow’s reading is that what she is narrating may well be the product of psychosis rather than reality…
The plum of the collection, though, is the second disc, on which Steven Pacey reads The Beast With Five Fingers – W.F. Harvey’s original short story first published in 1928, that has inspired numerous horror films, a character in The Addams Family and even a well-remembered Doctor Who story. Pacey captures the escalating terror as the disembodied embalmed hand – quite definitely not a figment of the characters’ imagination – seeks its revenge.
Although these stories are advertised as containing “atmospheric music”, that’s really confined to the start and finish of the readings – which actually benefits them. Sometimes you don’t need all the bells and whistles: just a melodic voice drawing you deeper into the realms of terror… 7/10
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