- Chris Priestley
Publisher: UK – Bloomsbury
Uncle Montague lives alone in a big house and his regular visits from his nephew give him the opportunity to relive some of the most frightening stories he knows. But as the stories unfold, a newer and more surprising narrative emerges, one that is perhaps the most frightening of all. Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, it transpires, are not so much works of imagination as dreadful lurking memories. Memories of an earlier time in which Uncle Montague lived a very different life to his present solitary existence.
Do you remember staying up late at night during sleepovers, turning the lights off and telling a ghost story by the light of a torch only? Slowly recounting the background, complete with little details, building up the tension and then – bam, a twist, a change of direction, the rug pulled out from under you...remember those stories? Well, that is what Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror is like. Short ghost stories told in the guise of a nephew spending time with an uncle, recounting scary stories on a dark day in front of the fire.
As with any short story collection, some stories work better than others – some do genuine surprise, while others follow a pattern. However, the element that intrigued me most was the frame around the short story format – Uncle Montague himself. The description of the house, the dark candle light, the mysterious manservant all created a creepy atmosphere. It was his story, rather than the stories that he told that kept me reading to the end. Why is he telling these stories to his young nephew? What other secrets lurk in the house?
Overall, these stories are best suited for pre-teens, and might come across as quite simple for older readers. However, it was the simplicity of the tales that appealed to me. All the stories feel quite old fashioned and traditional even though most of them are written specifically for this book – albeit traditional enough to feel like you might have heard them before. And there is a general theme that bad children (whether selfish or stupid or those who just don’t do as their told) get what they deserve.
Recommended for fans of Point Horror and The Outer Limits. 7 out of 10.