Category Archives: Shirley Jackson

Living in a World of Make-Believe*

Have you ever known people who lived very much in what we sometimes call a world of their own? Sometimes, it seems as though people like that have lost touch with reality, even if they can function in the actual world.

In some cases, that disconnect is because of a mental health problem. In some cases, it has other bases. Either way, characters like that can add an interesting touch to a crime novel. Is the character really as ‘out of touch’ as it seems? Is the character hiding something sinister? Characters who live in a world of their own can add a particularly interesting layer to a psychological thriller, too, and there are a lot of examples of that. Here are just a few examples from thrillers and crime fiction to show you what I mean.

In Agatha Christie’s Appointment With Death, for instance, we are introduced to the Boynton family. They’re taking a tour of the Middle East – their first visit outside their home in America. Family matriarch Mrs. Boynton is unpleasant, malicious and controlling. In fact, she has her family so much under her control that no-one dares do anything without her approval. When she is murdered on the second day of the family’s trip to the ancient city of Petra, Hercule Poirot (who is in the area) investigates. He soon discovers that every member of the family had a good motive for murder. One of those members is seventeen-year-old Ginevra Boynton. Of all of the family, she’s the one who seems to be suffering most from her mother’s influence. She has a very tenuous connection with reality, and doesn’t always seem lucid. Yet, she is very sure of what she does believe. Without spoiling the story, I can also say that she is not as ‘out of touch’ as it seems.

In Ellery Queen’s The Origin of Evil, Queen is staying in a rented house in the Hollywood Hills. He’s there for some peace and quiet – and some writing. Everything changes when nineteen-year-old Laurel Hill asks him for help. Her father, Leander Hill, has recently died of a heart attack, and Laurel is convinced that it was brought on deliberately. Queen’s reluctant to investigate at first. But Lauren tells him that, just before his death, her father received a series of macabre ‘gifts’ that she thinks were a message to him. What’s more, Hill’s business partner, Roger Priam, has also been receiving ‘gifts.’ The puzzle is irresistible for Queen, so he starts asking questions. And one of the people he meets is Priam’s stepson, Crowe ‘Mac’ McGowan. Mac doesn’t live with his mother and stepfather; rather, he lives in a tree. He wears as little as possible – frequently nothing at all. And, in the world he lives in, there’s about to be a nuclear blast, so everyone has to get ready for life after ‘The Bomb.’ He may seem eccentric – even mentally ill. But to Mac, the way he lives makes perfect sense.

As Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell introduces us to the Cosway family in The Minotaur. Swedish nurse Kerstin Kvist accepts a job with the Cosways who live in an old, Victorian home called Lydstep Old Hall. Her role will be to care for 39-year-old John Cosway, who is said to be schizophrenic. Soon after settling in, Kvist begins to see that this family is not a typical family (if there even is such a thing). For one thing, Mrs. Cosway, the family matriarch, insists that Kvist’s patient be kept under heavy sedation – something Kvist isn’t sure is necessary. For another, the entire family lives and behaves as though it’s still the Victorian Era. They seem to live in a world of their own in that sense. Kvist decides that she’ll have to take some action with regard to her patient. So, without informing anyone, she begins to withhold his medication. That decision has tragic consequences for several people. Throughout the novel, we see how the Cosways have their own, insular little world, quite apart from the real world. I know, fans of 13 Steps Down

So do the Blackwoods, whom we meet in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The story is narrated by eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine ‘Merricat’ Blackwood, who very much lives in her own world, and seems quite out of touch with reality at times. For her, any little action can be an omen, and she has several rituals that make sense to her, but aren’t at all connected with reality. We soon find out that her sister, Constance, and her Uncle Julian, have their own psychological issues. All of them live in a rather isolated house near a small Vermont village. And it’s not long before we learn that a tragedy took place there six years earlier. As the story goes on, we find out what that tragedy was, and we learn some dark truths about the family and the village. One of the plot threads in the story is the disconnect between the members of the family and what most people would call reality.

And then there’s Teresa Solana’s A Shortcut to Paradise. In that novel, noted Catalán novelist Marina Dolç has just received the very prestigious Golden Apple Fiction Award. There’s a glittering event to celebrate the award, and, of course, Dolç attends. After the event, she returns to her hotel room, where she is brutally murdered. Her top rival, Amadeu Cabestany, is the most likely suspect. In fact, he’s arrested for the crime. But he says he’s innocent. Barcelona PIs Eduard and Josep ‘Borja’ Martínez, get involved in the investigation when Borja claims they’ve been hired to find the killer. As they look for the real murderer, they find that more than one person could have wanted the victim dead. And when they get to the truth, we learn that Dolç was killed because someone lived in a separate world, so to speak, not very connected with reality.

Sometimes living in a world of one’s own can bring on real surges of creativity. Ask any writer and you’ll find that imagination plays a big role in writing. But sometimes, the price of not being connected with the real world is very high…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Alan O’Day’s Angie Baby.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Barbara Vine, Ellery Queen, Ruth Rendell, Shirley Jackson, Teresa Solana

In The Spotlight: Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. Shirley Jackson is highly regarded for her suspense novels and short stories. What’s perhaps most remarkable about them is that they build tension and even horror without a lot of obvious violence. It’s about time this feature included her work, so let’s do that today and turn the spotlight on her last novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

The novel is told in first person from the point of view of eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine ‘Merricat’ Blackwood, who lives with her older sister, Constance, and their Uncle Julian, on a Vermont estate. As the story begins, Mary Katherine is going into the nearby village to buy food and other supplies. Right from the beginning, it’s obvious that something is very wrong. For one thing, it’s clear that she is not welcome in the village. In fact, she goes to great effort to avoid seeing people. Several people are unkind to her, and it’s apparent that no-one wants her in town more than absolutely necessary.

When Mary Katherine gets home, we meet Constance. Now it’s even clearer that something is terribly wrong in the family. Constance is afraid to leave the house, and will not speak to anyone other than her sister and her uncle. She’s the one who does the cooking, a lot of the cleaning, and so on. She also takes care of Uncle Julian, who’s elderly and in bad health.

The family is quite isolated, as much socially as anything else. And we can see in their interactions that something is very much ‘not right’ (more on that shortly). Little by little, we learn about the tragedy that isolated them six years earlier. It seems that three other members of the family were poisoned. There was no conviction, but the people of the village are convinced that one of the Blackwoods is a murderer. So it’s little wonder that the villagers want little to do with them. Still, Mary Katherine, Constance, and Uncle Julian have managed to make a life for themselves. Then, the outside world comes in. Charles Blackwood, a cousin to Mary Katherine and Constance, pays a visit. His visit touches off a series of events that ends in another tragedy.

This isn’t a traditional sort of mystery novel, where there’s a murder, the police investigate, and the killer is caught (or at least, we find out who the killer is). Rather, it’s a novel of psychological suspense, where we learn what happened through conversations that the Blackwood family members have. We also see the tragedies as filtered through Mary Katherine’s mind. This approach to telling the story means that the truth of what really happened is revealed slowly, and relies on the reader making the connections.

The members of the Blackwood family are all impacted severely by what happened. Along with the fact that they’ve been isolated, they’ve got their own psychological issues. Mary Katherine, for instance, has a number of rituals about nearly everything. And small things, such as whether she sees anyone, become omens for her.

Constance doesn’t leave the house. She’s a compulsive cleaner and homemaker, and refuses to see or speak to anyone but Mary Katherine or Uncle Julian. Although she’s older than her sister, it’s really Mary Katherine who tries to take care of Constance. She, Mary Katherine, leaves the house when it’s necessary, interacts with others, and so on.

Uncle Julian has his own psychological issues. He’s writing a book about the tragedy in the family, and is continually going over notes, reviewing chapters, and so on. And yet, even as he works on his project, he wavers between lucidity and what might be called a form of dementia.

Because of the psychological issues this family has, the reader must peel back the layers of what the members say and sometimes do to get to the truth about what happened six years earlier. In that sense, what is not said is almost as important as what the characters do say.

But the novel isn’t just about the Blackwoods. It’s also a portrait of an insular village with its own views of what happened. The villagers are not above insults, bullying, and shunning. And yet, there are also moments when some of them do try to reach out to the family. On the one hand, it’s unsettling to the other people in the town to have a possible murderer nearby. On the other, they’ve made life nearly impossible for the Blackwoods. This conflict adds a great deal of tension to the story, and it’s part of the reason for which Mary Katherine is fixated on making the family home – their castle – as safe from outsiders as possible. And the conflict spirals as the novel goes on. That, too, adds to the tension and suspense.

Because the novel is told from Mary Katherine’s perspective, the story sometimes shifts back and forth in time, as our thinking sometimes does. So, it’s not really a chronological, linear sort of novel. Readers who prefer a story that starts at the beginning and follows a sequential progression of events will notice this. That said, though, it’s clear (at least to me) what is happening in the present time, what is a memory, and what is simply a general thought.

The novel isn’t long (my edition clocked in at 214 pages), and Jackson is sparing in telling about exactly what happened six years ago. So, the reader is invited to ‘fill in the blanks.’ I usually try to avoid making comparisons when I analyze books, as each story is unique. But in this sense, the story is similar to some of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. Hints are given, layers are peeled away, and gradually the reader is told the truth, without violence, but with psychological unease.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the story of a very dysfunctional family with a very dark history. It takes place in a closed-in sort of village, and tells the story of tragedies that could have been averted (or, could they?). But what’s your view? Have you read We Have Always Lived in the Castle? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight

 

Monday, 27 March/Tuesday, 28 March – Death of an Old Goat – Robert Barnard

Monday, 3 April/Tuesday, 4 April – Peepshow – Leigh Redhead

Monday, 10 April/Tuesday, 11 April – Something in the Air – John Alexander Graham

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Filed under Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

You’ll Feel Your Mind Slipping Away*

poe-horror-and-crimeAs this is posted, it would have been Edgar Allan Poe’s 208th birthday. Whether you’re a fan of Poe’s writing or not, it’s hard to deny his impact on literature and culture. Personally, I like it that the Baltimore (US) professional football team is called the Ravens.

Certainly, Poe had a tremendous influence on crime fiction. In fact, he is often regarded as the creator of modern detective fiction. His C. Auguste Dupin stories featured a detective in ways that hadn’t been done before. And fans can tell you that that he also created memorable horror stories.

What’s interesting about those horror stories is that they rely much more on psychological suspense and tension than on gore and violence. And, for many people, that psychological approach can build more tension, and is more frightening, than outright violence is.

Poe is by no means the only author to create stories with that element of psychological suspense, even horror. We see it quite a lot in crime fiction. For instance, Marie Belloc Lowndes The Lodger is the story of Ellen and Robert Bunting, who have retired from domestic service and opened their home to lodgers. They’re quite particular about the people they accept, so they haven’t had many lodgers. But one day, a stranger comes to ask about a room, and seems to be exactly the sort of lodger they want. Calling himself Mr. Sleuth, this new roomer pays his rent fully and promptly. He has quiet habits, too, and ‘speaks like a gentleman.’ The Buntings need the money, so they agree quickly to an arrangement. In the meantime, London is caught up in the news of a series of murders of young women, committed by a man who calls himself The Avenger. Robert Bunting, in particular, is as taken with this news as anyone is, and follows the details with interest. At first, his wife doesn’t want anything to do with stories of the murders. But slowly, and with growing horror, she begins to suspect that her new lodger may actually be the murderer. That creeping fear, and the hints (rather than actual scenes) of violence add a great deal of suspense to this story.

Shirley Jackson was noted for her ability to create eerie, frightening stories without gore. Fans can tell you that The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are both quite creepy novels. And then there’s her short story, The Lottery, which you can read right here. Do these stories count as crime fiction? Perhaps The Haunting of Hill House would be counted more as horror than as crime fiction. But We Have Always Lived in the Castle features arsenic poisoning and its consequences. And The Lottery….  I don’t want to spoil it in case you’ve not read it. But as far as I’m concerned, it includes a crime.

Daphne du Maurier also combined elements of horror and crime in her work, and much of the tension is psychological, rather than dependent on violence. In Jamaica Inn, for instance, Mary Yellan goes to live with her Uncle Joss and Aunt Patience Merlyn. Their home is a lonely inn on the moor in Cornwall, and it’s far from a warm, friendly place. The inn itself is eerie enough, and the more Mary finds out about the inn and some of its secrets, the eerier the story gets. There’s a real sense of horror as Mary discovers the truth about the inn. And there is some violence. But du Maurier relies much more on psychological suspense to build the tension and move the plot along.

Many people regard Stephen King as one of the masters of the modern horror story. But he has also used his skill at building eeriness and horror in the crime stories he writes. For instance, Delores Claiborne and Mr. Mercedes are certainly crime novels. But they also have elements of the horror story in them, too. There’s arguably an eerie sort of atmosphere, and the tension that builds is as much psychological as it is anything else. The same might be said of Misery. In all of those stories (and others King has written), there is violence – more than there is in some of the other examples I’ve mentioned here. But the violence isn’t the focus of the stories. Rather, it’s the psychological tension.

And I don’t think I could discuss that mix of crime and horror in fiction without mentioning Alfred Hitchcock’s film work. Several of his films are based on crime fiction, but even those that aren’t have that element of psychological suspense that really carries the plot along. And in some of those films, there really is very little violence. But they’re still suspenseful and eerie.

There are a lot of other authors (right, fans of, Hake Talbot, Patricia Highsmith and Pascal Garnier?) who have combined elements of horror with elements of the crime story to create eerie stories. It’s not easy to do that, especially if one doesn’t focus on gory violence. But when it’s done well, a dose of horror can add genuine suspense and creepiness to a crime story.

So, if you think about it, Poe didn’t just leave a legacy in terms of detective fiction (although he certainly did do that). He didn’t just leave a legacy of horror stories, either (although, of course, he did that, too). He showed how one might write a truly frightening, eerie story with a solid plot, but without resorting to a lot of gore.

ps. Oh, the ‘photo? Don’t tell me it never rains in Southern California.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Alan Parsons Project’s The Cask of Amontillado. This track comes from their release Tales of Mystery and Imagination. All of the songs are Poe titles, and the songs themselves inspired by Poe’s stories.

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Filed under Alfred Hitchcock, Daphne du Maurier, Edgar Allan Poe, Hake Talbot, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Pascal Garnier, Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King

You Don’t Like My Point of View*

groupthinkAs I post this, it’s the 63rd anniversary of the publication of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It wasn’t a best-seller when it first came out, but since then, it’s established itself as a classic piece of literature.

Lord of the Flies isn’t, strictly speaking, a crime novel (although crimes are committed in the story). But it touches on some themes and considerations that we see a lot in crime fiction. One of those is groupthink. Groupthink happens when people go along with a group in order to achieve consensus, even if they disagree privately with the group’s decision. Sometimes, consensus has some purpose. It’s hard to get things done otherwise. But groupthink can also stifle creativity; worse, it can stile the individual sense of responsibility. And that can have tragic consequences.

Agatha Christie touches on groupthink in a few of her stories. For instance, in Mrs.McGinty’s Dead, Superintendent Albert ‘Bert’ Spence pays a visit to Hercule Poirot. He’s concerned because James Bentley is about to be executed for the murder of his landlady, Mrs. McGinty. Although Spence collected the evidence that eventually convicted Bentley, he’s not sure the man is guilty. So he asks Poirot to look into the matter, and Poirot agrees. To find out the truth, Poirot travels to the small town of Broadhinny where the murder occurred, and begins to get to know the residents. As it turns out, Mrs. McGinty was the kind of person who found out people’s secrets. And one secret wasn’t safe for her to know. What’s interesting about this village is that everyone agrees it’s a ‘nice village,’ with ‘very nice people.’ So the murderer had to have been James Bentley, at least according to this groupthink.

In Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel, we are introduced to Elijah ‘Lije’ Baley, a homicide detective in a futuristic New York City. In this world, humankind has been more or less divided into two large groups. One group, Spacers, are descended from those who explored space and returned to Earth. The other, Earthmen, are descended from those who never left the planet. The groups fear and dislike each other to the point that they live in separate places, with the border between them carefully protected. Then, Baley’s boss, Julius Enderby, informs him that a well-known Spacer scientist has been murdered. Spacers suspect an Earthman, so to ensure transparency of the investigation, Enderby wants Baley to investigate. And he wants him to work with a Spacer partner, R. Daneel Olivaw. Working with a Spacer will be difficult enough, but when Baley discovers that Olivaw is a positronic robot, he feels the task may be nearly impossible. If there’s one thing Earthmen hate and fear more than scientists, it’s robots. Throughout the novel, we see all sorts of examples of groupthink about robots, the threat they may pose, and misconceptions about them. We also see groupthink about the Spacers.

Groupthink can definitely play a role in what happens during jury deliberations. If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. Jurors want to return a verdict, especially if they’re sequestered, and especially if it looks to be a long case. And when the stakes are high, there’s a lot of motive for swaying a jury in one direction or another. That form of groupthink plays a role in John Grisham’s Runaway Jury. In that novel, a very high-profile lawsuit is brought against the tobacco industry. Specifically, Celeste Wood is bringing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Pynex (formerly called Union Tobacco), in the wake of her husband’s death from lung cancer. With so much money at stake, it’s not surprising that it soon seems someone is trying to sway the jury and use groupthink to get a verdict. Even after they’re sequestered, the jury still seems to be behaving strangely. Bit by bit, we learn what’s really going on, and who’s behind this attempt to get the jury to return the ‘right’ verdict. There are plenty of other legal mysteries, too, that involve juries and groupthink.

We see groupthink in several of Qiu Xiaolong’s novels featuring Shanghai police detective Chen Cao. In the Shanghai of the late 1990s, it’s considered very important to maintain social harmony. So independent investigations, ‘watchdog’ groups and so on are highly discouraged (or worse). That reality plays out in several of the stories, including Enigma of China. In one plot thread of that novel, a watchdog group has been using the Internet to expose corruption at high levels. One of this group’s targets is Zhou Keng, Head of Shanghai’s Housing Development Committee. The government, of course, is aware of this investigation, and Zhou is arrested. He’s moved to a Shanghai hotel to await trial. One morning, his body is found in his hotel room. The government authorities want Chief Inspector Chen to ‘rubber stamp’ the theory of suicide for a few reasons. But Chen isn’t sure that’s what really happened. As he works to solve the case, he comes into contact with the group that posted the accusations against Zhao. And he finds an odd paradox. At the same time as the government is cracking down on the group (in order to encourage groupthink), they need the information the group gets to stop trouble and to keep social order and harmony. It’s an interesting look at the way groupthink can work at the macro level.

Garry Disher’s Bitter Wash Road shows how groupthink can work among the police. In that novel, Constable Paul ‘Hirsch’ Hirschhausen has just been transferred from Adeliade to Tiverton, in rural South Australia. He’s basically a pariah among the Adelaide police because he has a reputation as a ‘whistleblower.’ And he soon finds that his reputation has preceded him. Right from the beginning, his boss, Sergeant Kropp, and the other local police, make life as difficult as possible for Hirsch, sabotaging and humiliating him at every opportunity. But Hirsch still has a job to do. And when the body of fifteen-year-old Melia Donovan is discovered by the side of Bitter Wash Road, he investigates. One theory is that she was hitchhiking and was accidentally hit by a passing car. But there are other possibilities, and Hirsch explores them. Despite the groupthink of his peers, he finds out the truth about what really happened to the victim, and we see how groupthink impacts everyone as he does. It’s an interesting plot point in the story.

On the surface, groupthink can seem an efficient way to get a group to reach consensus. But that’s not always a good thing, and groupthink can have terrifying consequences. Right, fans of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Blind Melon’s No Rain.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Garry Disher, Isaac Asimov, John Grisham, Qui Xiaolong, Shirley Jackson, William Golding

Don’t Go Around Tonight*

Scarey StoriesA really interesting post by Moira at Clothes in Books has got me thinking about really frightening stories. You know, the ones you can’t put down, but at the same time, scare the wits out of you. Of course, each of us is frightened by different things, so the stories that have scared you probably won’t be the stories that have scared me.

That said though, and because it’s Hallowe’en, here are a few stories that I found really chilling:
 

The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe

You’ll probably already know that this is the story of Roderick Usher and his sister Madeleine. Usher is suffering from several complications from anxiety disorders; Madeleine is also ill and seems to fall have catalyptic seizures. Usher writes to a friend – the narrator of the story – asking for his help. The narrator arrives and right away is sobered by the grim physical and psychical atmosphere of the home. But he settles in and tries to help his friend. Little by little, the house and grounds seem to take on an eerie life of their own, and although the narrator doesn’t quite want to believe Usher’s claim that the house is sentient, some strange things begin to happen. It all ends in tragedy, and to me, what’s creepiest about this story is how things we imagine can take on lives of their own. In this case, they turn out to be all too real, but even when they aren’t, the mind can conjure up some terrible things.
 

The Trial – Franz Kafka

This is the story of Josef K., an ordinary enough junior bank manager who is accused of a crime by two unidentified agents. They won’t detail the crime, nor will they tell him who employs them. K. isn’t imprisoned, but he is told to wait for further instructions from the Committee of Affairs. K. is summoned to a hearing, but every indication is that he will not really have a chance to make his case – that he has no idea what he might have done wrong, and that the court has made a mistake. Everything about the hearing seems engineered against him. He hires an Advocate who ends up doing no good, and as the story goes on, matters spin more and more out of control. As those who’ve read this story know, the more K. tries to make sense of it all and find out the truth, the more surreal things get, and the more obvious it is that there is only one fate for him. And that’s part of what’s very chilling about this story: that lack of control. There’s also a haunting question of what is and isn’t real, as well as the question of whether our fates are decided for us.
 

The Lottery – Shirley Jackson

This short story takes place in what seems like a normal small town. Everyone’s gathering for an annual lottery, a town tradition. The way the lottery works, each family chooses a member to draw from a black wooden box – the same box that has been used for the lottery since anyone can remember. The story follows the fortunes of one particular family that’s drawn this year’s ticket. It’s hard to say more without spoiling the story for those who haven’t read it. I can say this though: what’s chilling about the story is how normal everything seems.
 

Don’t Look Behind You – Fredric Brown

Brown involves the reader directly in this short story, and that adds considerably to its chill. It begins like this:
 

Just sit back and relax, now. Try to enjoy this; it’s going to be the last story you ever read, or nearly the last. After you finish it you can sit there and stall awhile, you can find excuses to hang around your house, or your room, or your office, wherever you’re reading this; but sooner or later you’re going to have to get up and go out. That’s where I’m waiting for you: outside. Or maybe closer than that. Maybe in this room.’
 

Then the narrator goes on to tell the story of a printer named Justin, a suave man named Harley, and what happens when they get involved with some dangerous people. The end in particular is very creepy – or was to me.
 

Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith

This story starts off normally enough. Guy Haines is on a cross-country train ride to visit his estranged wife Miriam. That’s when he meets Charles Anthony Bruno, who’s also on a journey. The two get to talking and begin to commiserate: Haines tells Bruno about his wife and Bruno tells Haines about his father, whom he hates. Then Bruno suggests that each one should commit the other’s murder. If Bruno kills Haines’ wife, and Haines kills Bruno’s father, there’s no motive to connect either murderer to either victim. Haines jokingly agrees, sure that Bruno isn’t serious. He is though, and as the story goes on, we see how Haines is drawn deeper and deeper into Bruno’s dysfunctional, mentally twisted world. And that’s what’s chilling about this story, at least to me. Oh, and I recommend Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 flim adaptation of the story. It’s a little different, but no less haunting…
 

A Judgement in Stone – Ruth Rendell

This novel has one of the most famous first sentences – and I think one of the most powerful – in the genre:
 

‘Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.’
 

Right from there we know that the well-off and well-educated Coverdale family is doomed. The story tells how George and Jacqueline Coverdale hire Eunice Parchman to be their housekeeper. Tragically, they don’t find out much about her, but she seems to suit, and at first, all goes well. But the new housekeeper is hiding something that she is desperate not to reveal. As the story goes on, she gets more and more paranoid, and the Coverdale family gets closer and closer to danger, although they are eerily unaware of it. When one of the family members accidentally finds out the truth, this seals their fate. One of the truly frightening things about this story is how easily everything goes horribly wrong. The Coverdales aren’t stupid, but you could say they’re comfortably unaware of the danger that awaits them. They’re not too different really from a lot of everyday people, and that’s creepy too.

So there you have it – a few stories that I found really frightening. What about you? Do you dare to share?

Thanks, Moira, for the inspiration. Hey, folks, have a look at Moira’s list. And while you’re on the hunt for terrifying tales, you’ll also want to visit Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews every Tuesday for Tuesday Terror!! Lots of frightfully good suggestions! You may not want to be alone when you do, though….
 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising.

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Filed under Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, Fredric Brown, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, Shirley Jackson