I’m enjoying the short stories from MR James I’ve been reading for Carl’s Readers Imbibing Peril 7. His writing style immediately draws the reader in.
In Casting the Ruins, the story begins with a couple of memos to a scientific association from a man angry that he isn’t allowed to discuss his paper with the group. The man in charge, Mr Dunning, thinks this guy is a wing nut since he believes himself to be an alchemist. The letters, having been read by the secretary’s wife, prompt a discussion among her husband and some other members. The alchemist, a Mr Karswell, isn’t a very nice guy and there was an incident a few years back; after Karswell received a bad review of a book on witchcraft he wrote, the critic who wrote it dies a bizarre death. Everyone agrees that it’s a good thing Karswell doesn’t know about Mr Dunning.
The point of view then switches to Mr Dunning, who starts seeing the name “Harrington” everywhere. This freaks him out. After a little investigating, he learns that Harrington is the name of the dead critic. Harrington’s brother is more than happy to relate to Mr Dunning the circumstances surrounding his death. They seem eerily similar to what Dunning is experiencing. The two are then determined to interfere with Karswell’s evil plans and save Dunning from the same fate.
This was a good one. There’s an evil dude, some mysterious happenings, some intrigue on a train, and an appropriate conclusion. The only part I had trouble with was how easily Harrington and Dunning believe that Karswell is using magic to mess with Dunning. Seriously, it was the first thing they thought of: “Hey, this guy has you under a spell” “Yes, indeed he does!” Maybe it was the first thing people thought in 190-, who knows?
Casting the Runes is a quick, creepy read. Give it a try!