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Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Casebook of Carnaki: The Ghost Finder. W.H. Hodson. Wordsworth Editions Limited ( 2006)

A wonderful set of ghost hunting stories, some of which reveal ghosts some of which expose other forces at work. The framework for all the stories is the same, Carnaki invites a number of friends to dinner and tells them about some investigation he had carried out. Carnaki is an investigator of the possibly and actually supernatural, curious, skeptical and very competent. He is always aware of the possibility that human agency is at the foot of the problem while being prepared for other explanations. His scientific approach to the investigations and his credible fear in the face of considerable threat makes the stories gripping and enjoyable. He manages to bring the supernatural within the bounds of credibility by a scientific approach without ever stripping it of its essential mystery.
"The Thing Invisible" is the first story in the book and concerns a haunting in a chapel attached to a castle which always had the reputation of being haunted, with a near fatal attack on the butler, it was becoming dangerous. Carnaki's investigation is smart and thoughtful, the explanation is effective.
"The Gateway of the Monster" has Carnaki called in to investigate a haunted room, he does so by staying the night and the account of what passes is gripping and sharp. The menace is superbly built up and the precautions that Carnaki takes to protect himself and how they are used are very effective details. The monster is serious and dangerous, the whole story is pleasure.
"The House among the Laurels" is a very smart piece of storytelling, the set up is great and the unfolding of the events economical and forceful. A clever and intrepid piece of investigation.
"The Whistling Room" is the stand out story in a great collection. The tone of the story moves very naturally from the apparently foolish to the darkly dangerous without ever loosing its footing. The  problem as it becomes revealed is nasty and very creepy, the source and cause of the trouble is suitably bleak. The whole story is a masterpiece of effective compression, a great deal happens in a very short space without any confusion or loss of focus in the story.
"The Searcher of the End House"  is the closest to a standard ghost story in the collection.
"The Horse of the Invisible" highlights the force of Carnaki's scientific thoughtful process of investigation and that there can be more than one process at work behind a supernatural event.
"The Haunted Jarvee" is a haunting at sea and gives the room for W. H. Hodson to describe trouble at sea and the sheer helplessness of sailors in the face of a storm.
"The Find" is a smart little puzzle that uses clear thinking to solve a problem.
"The Hog" is the weakest story in the collection, the story tries to hard and is overwhelmed by the details, the tension and foreboding essential to the story get swamped by the process that Carnaki is using. There is just too much going on that has the be explained for the story to maintain its moment.
W.H.Hodson is a master of the ghost story, even the lest story in this collection has force and tension galore, the best are simply astonishing. The mix of scientific inquiry and supernatural is creatively used to bring the reader further into the atmosphere, the threats have weight and force and Carnaki is a great guide, willing to take a risk and never too stupid not to be afraid. 

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