Ghost Stories by EF Benson (selected and introduced by Mark Gatiss)

I bought the audio download version of this book. The stories are read by Mark Gatiss who also selected the stories and provides the informative introduction to the collection.

Image result for ghost stories ef benson mark gatissIt's a little misleading to call this EF Benson collection Ghost Stories as they aren't all 'ghost' stories at all, although they certainly all have a creepy, supernatural focus. They are beautifully written in a way that somehow seems completely effortless. There's not a word out of place and every descriptive detail is perfectly chosen. As you'd expect from the author who wrote the Mapp and Lucia series, there is also a waspishly observational tone to some of them, particularly the first story in the collection, Spinach, which deals with a pair of money-grabbing spirit mediums who find themselves making contact with a deceased but unrepentant killer. It's very funny, yet somehow at the same time sinister in a cleverly ambiguous way.

Also very sinister is the slightly homoerotic tale of an artist who has seemingly captured the secret of eternal youth, Dorian Gray-style.The ending, although perhaps a little predictable, is written in such a way as to be peculiarly unsettling.

The stories aren't necessarily terrifying, but they are memorable and will certainly make you shiver a little. Each one manages to distil plenty of character and atmosphere into the short story form. They're as much HP Lovecraft as they are MR James - in one story, for instance, the 'haunting' of a guest house is by a grotesque infestation of fleshy, bloated caterpillars which in turn becomes a metaphor for disease.

If you do choose the audio download, you're in for a treat, as Mark Gatiss couldn't be a better choice to read these stories. As well as being an expert in this particular genre, Gatiss is the perfect actor to read this collection and renders different characters' voices convincingly and distinctively. This is great to listen to while curled up indoors on a dark evening or a rainy afternoon.

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