Friday, March 04, 2011

Count Magnus by MR James

Count Magnus & Other Ghost Stories (Complete Ghost Stories 1)Count Magnus & Other Ghost Stories by Montague Rhodes James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review is for Count Magnus alone (although I fully intend to read the other stories at some point).

Mr. James has not been called a ghost story-writing master for no reason. He is an expert at building the atmosphere and writing a story that delivers an eerie, creepy thrill to the reader. Although I wouldn't call this one of my favorite stories by him, he was quite successful with this tale about an ill-fated travel-writer who comes upon the mystery of a not-so nice Swedish nobleman with an incredibly unsavory history.

Although the amount of detail in this story will probably bore a reader who is used to a more modern, terse style of writing, I enjoyed James' almost conversational way of telling a story. Those ghost stories that are told as though I am the reader hearing my friend tell me about a real set of events are the most effective to me, because they feel more real, and the unsettling elements have a personal impact since I feel like I am there in the action.

Mr. James builds up the suspense as you hear about Count Magnus, and he leaves certain facts to the reader's imagination. I think that's probably a little more scary. I wondered what was up with the two figures who were apparently stalking Mr. Wraxall. I felt a chill go through my body when Wraxall encounters a sarcophagus that appears to be unlocking itself. What's going to come out of that coffin? What powers does Count Magnus possess, even from beyond the grave?

This story won't work for a reader who wants a more "in your face" style. But for readers who enjoy the old-fashioned, but very creepy and atmospheric ghost/horror story will enjoy this one.

Rating for Count Magnus: 4 stars .

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