At the Old Inn, which clings precariously to a cliff top above a storm-lashed ocean, two sick children are left alone while their father fetches the doctor. Then a visitor comes begging for shelter, and so begins a long night of storytelling, in which young Ethan and Cathy, who have an unnatural appetite for stories of a macabre persuasion, sit out the last throes of the storm in the company of a sailor with more than enough grisly tales to satisfy them. But something about this sailor puts Ethan on edge, and he becomes increasingly agitated for his father's return. Only when the storm blows itself out can Ethan relax - but not for long, for the new dawn opens the children's eyes to a truth more shocking, more distressing than anything they heard the night before.
Once again Chris Priestley presents us with a selection of ghostly tales covering a variety of sea-related monsters and frights linked together by an intriguing tale of two sick children waiting for their father to return with the doctor. I enjoyed the previous tale – Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror (reviewed here), but I definitely preferred these selection of tales. The ongoing theme of nautical terror was a strong link between stories – after all what is scarier than being trapped on a ship with a bunch of strangers, surrounded by unfriendly seas for miles? Add a ghostly element, or a mermaid or even sea snails and suddenly you’re feeling ever so glad you’re sat firmly inland with the sea well out of sight reading a book rather than out on the big blue.
As is usually the case with short stories, some are more memorable than others – the one about the sea snails definitely sticks with me! This time the link between stories was just as strong as the stories and I was intrigued about the sailor’s background and the children’s home life – how long would their father be gone? It was this linking theme that kept me turning the pages, wanting to know what happens next.
The writing feels like a classic ghost story – ancient and yet modern at the same time. The words just flew by and I pretty much sailed through the book (yes, that pun was intended!). Plus how creepy is that cover? A great read for Halloween or any time a storm in brewing...
Recommended for fans of Peter Beagle and R.L. Stine. 8 out 10