Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle


Tales of Terror and Mystery

Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a variety of material. Most notably, he had the first truly great detective (and consequently the first great arch-villain). (He even wrote the adventure story: The Lost World, being the inspiration for Jurassic Park and a myriad of adaptations.) To my mild surprise, Doyle also dabbled in the genre of horror with stories similar in nature to the master of horror: Edgar Allan Poe. I suspect that this work had a small tribute to the work of Poe, because these stories have stylistic similarities to Poe’s writings.

So what kind of tales will you find in this book? I’ll list the stories and make a comment or two about each one.

Tales of Horror:

  • The Horror of the Heights – This story, placed in the early days of aviation now lacks the punch I assume that it once had. If one believes that villains often reveal the fears of the public (at the time of their publication), then this story presents an intriguing glimpse at the early age of flight. This story takes place at a time before enclosed cockpits….
  • The Leather Funnel – A rather nasty story, this one. This story represented the requisite pass (albeit minor) at the occult and violence. As I enjoy Poe, I am probably not a good judge of just how dark a tale can be, but I squirmed a tad at the pictures.
  • The New Catacomb – Two young men, both professional archaeologists, explore a heretofore-unknown catacomb in Rome. Doyle essentially rewrote one of Poe’s more famous stories in this short thriller. Sorry, I won’t tell you which one as it would spoil the ending.
  • The Case of Lady Sannox – A story of morbid vengeance. Can one understand the desire for this particular revenge? Possibly, but it still makes one shudder at the heart who would dare commit such a crime. Definitely a shiver inducer.
  • The Terror of Blue John Gap – Meh…. Not that exciting. Has about the same fear factor as Bram Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm, but that’s about it. Short and not really frightening. Skipping a story in this book? Make it this one.
  • The Brazilian Cat – Somewhere, I either read this story or one like it. Probably one like it as the story line isn’t all that uncommon. A desperate financially troubled youth makes friends with an uncle who had traveled the world (Brazil in particular). This uncle, from whom the lad wanted money until he inherited his own fortune, had a pet cat. A black Brazilian cat similar to a panther or leopard. A killer cat. It was a dark and stormy night….

Tales of Mystery

  • The Lost Special – One of the better stories in this collection. This mystery reveals the clever mind of Doyle. But, as Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, I guess the revelation is a moot point. Oh well. Apparently, a special train (high speed) disappeared without a trace between two small towns one afternoon. How could an entire train disappear? It couldn’t leave the tracks and it never arrived. This clever tale will keep you wondering right until the end.
  • The Beetle-Hunter – A young scientist specializing in beetles, answers an advertisement for an adventure of unlimited duration. This story had plenty of potential, but wasn’t really well developed.
  • The Man with the Watches – Another train mystery. An old man and his apparent daughter enter one train car; they are the sole occupants. The next car, the smoking car, has a lone middle-aged man in it. At the next stop, the smoking car is empty and the other car contains the corpse of a young man whose pockets filled with watches. The three occupants have vanished.
  • The Japanned Box – Japanned is a term used to describe a lacquer applied in a Oriental style. A gentleman takes a position as a tutor to two young boys. During his stay, he over hears a woman’s voice coming from the study of the widower’s study. That study contains a Japanned box, which can never be touched on pain of dismissal. Somehow, women enter and leave the study without using the door.
  • The Black Doctor – A foreign doctor, becoming the star of the community, breaks off his engagement and prepares to leave town. Before he can go, the black doctor is found murdered in his office. During the trial of the ex-fiancé’s brother, surprising evidence comes from a rather surprising source.
  • The Jew’s Breastplate – Interesting tale that takes place in a museum. The story revolves around the breastplate of the Jewish high priest and the wonderful jewels in it. The new caretaker discovers that someone had loosened the jewels, but not stolen them. Each night the culprit loosens several more jewels but never takes a single one.

Generally of high quality, you will probably enjoy some of the stories here. Being short stories, they make great reading right before bedtime. Well, OK, except for The Leather Funnel. I think that I might not read that one right before bed.

What short stories do you recommend?

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6 thoughts on “Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle

  1. This was fun. Sorry about the lack of links. You can get it from Librivox. I updated the post to reflect that as well.

    So what short stories do you like?

  2. Mysteries (mostly Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, which I never get tired of), and humor (Richard Peck is a family favorite. He writes novels whose chapters can be read individually like short stories). I’m not a big horror fan; my imagination is active enough, thank you. What short stories do you like?

  3. Well, I like all kinds of short stories. I enjoy mysteries to some degree, but as it is quite hard to develop a decent mystery in 10-15 pages, they aren’t that high on my list of short stories.

    Terror stories are good. (Within reason.)

    Sci-Fi is usually great. Just finished one that was more of a novella. I’ll be posting on that in the near future.

    Adventure can be decent, but usually the best genre for short stories is humor.

    I dislike the “heart-warming feel-good” seasonal short stories and the stories contrived to play your emotions toward some feel good goal (i.e. some religious email/short stories deals). These categories are annoying at best and repulsive on my more cynical days….

    🙂

  4. You must be a very nice person, having cynical days ;). I get a magazine that has one sugary sweet short story an issue, and its my least favorite part. All you have to do is read the opening sentance and you know how its going to end. What’s the point of that? Their only redeeming value is how easy they are to write.

    You mention Poe in the reveiw: have you read much of him? I’m not a fan of horror but he IS a great writer. I’ve read a few short stories by him, all very exquisitly written. Do you know of any that are, well, redeeming? The ones I read were not really recomemdable if only for the blatant anti-Christian bias.

  5. hehe. OK, maybe I give myself to much credit claiming “cynical days.” It might be more like cynical weeks, but whatever.

    As far as Poe is concerned, I have read many of his stories (but not all of his poetry). If you haven’t read his “Murder In The Rue Morgue,” then you should. That story is the first detective story and created the entire genre. And, it happens to be the first “locked room” mysteries.

    Poe’s other works tend to explore death, fear and horror. One lesser known story called “The Premature Burial” explores the fear of being buried alive. Another, the well known “Pit and the Pendulum” explores fear and horror.

    These themes were characteristic of Poe’s life. In many ways, Poe seemed to write in an attempt to explore/understand his own feelings. He was buried in a special coffin so that he could alert people if he awoke or was buried alive. (It did happen in those days; What am I saying? It happened recently that a man awoke during the autopsy….)

    What’s recommendable? Certainly “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and the “The Black Cat” repeats the theme in a more horrifying manner. As to the others, “The Gold Bug” wasn’t to bad, but it has been some years since I read most of his stuff, so I am a bit fuzzy on it. I didn’t read as critically back then either so my opinions could/would change on future reading.

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