Usually I review a book almost immediately after it has been completed, but this book is not usual by any means. The stories in this book has been read & re-read by me over a long time, and the latest read concluded today. Finally, I think that a review of this book is in order, and here it goes (along with my thoughts about the contents): -
(*) Introduction by Michael Dirda, reasserts something that the readers of "All Hallows" magazine published by Ghost Story Society and other anthologies published by the respected Ash Tree Press, has been believing for a long time: Ms. Roden is too accomplished an author whose stories should get suppressed by her editorial (and other) demands.
1) The Appointed Time: characters and paragraphs from "Bleak House" constitutes the frame for this brilliantly crafted 'traditional' ghost story, dealing with crime & punishment.
2) Endless Night: a story that shivers me to the core every time I read it, irrespective of the temperatures prevailing at Ahemdabad, not just because of its backdrop (fittingly, Antarctica), but because of the terrifying images of loneliness & waste that it created.
3) The Palace: the fact that this story had certain auto-biographical elemnets (admitted by Ms. Roden in her story-notes) make the images evoked by it even more chilling, although, let me assure you, even as a 100% fictional piece it is a terrifying story, very well-told.
4) Out and Back: deserted/ruined fairs can be romantic from a distance, but what those who get trapped in their lure on a permanent basis? After reading this story, I am sure you will think twice before venturing out for some off-the-beaten-track fairs.
5) The Wide, Wide Sea: a very neatly told story that allows you to keep on thinking as to whether the protagonist had been driven to her death by her own loneliness, or by someone/something else.
6) The Brink of Eternity: story of a man's obsession where the search for something becomes not the aim of life, but life.
7) Tourist Trap: perhaps the plotline (an innocent outsider getting trapped by an evil entity without any mischief on her part) may be common, but the way the tale has been constructed makes it delicious, and the end, suitably nasty.
8) Northwest Passage: the best and the most terrifying story of this book, with the seemingly comforting descriptions & memories of the protagonist inexorably grooming us for the nerve-wrecking finale, while alluring all of us by the ancient & haunting beauty of wilderness which is vaster & older than we imagine.
9) The Hiding Palace: a sad story of childhood, loss, and yet with something far more darker & deeper that terrifies every parent.
10) After: people coming fresh from "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher" would be acquainted with the characters, but even then they might find the darkness seeping through the pages rather overpowering.
(*) Story Notes & Introduction
Overall, this slim collection has made me (and I am sure that I am speaking for many a reader) rather impatiently expectant about another collection. Let's hope, the author immerses herself into the creation of another set of similarly superlative stories very soon. Until then, cherish this book and appreciate the stories.