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Le Fanu was a 19th Century Irish writer who specialized in Gothic horror and crime stories. If you are a student of the genre then he is a figure with which you should be familiar. He was clearly influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, and obviously an influence on Bram Stoker and subsequent horror writers.
"Green Tea" is an effective tale about a clergyman who is haunted and followed around by a demonic, red eyed monkey. The listener is invited by the author to wonder whether the monkey is real or an hallucination. But as a picture of a man's descent into madness, it is believable and tinged with a psychological realism not usually characteristic of supernatural horror.
"The Familiar" is a similar tale, although shorter and not quite as memorable.
"Mr. Justice Harbottle" is the quintessential Victorian ghost story.
"The Room in the Dragon Volant," the longest of these tales, begins a little slowly but rewards listening if you stick with it. It is more of a crime story than a horror story, although Poe-esque horror elements are present. It is set in revolutionary France, where a slightly naive Englishman finds himself seduced by a beautiful woman who drugs him and then attempts, with the help of a conspirator, to rob and kill him. The drugged man is apparently paralyzed and able to hear their plans, which propose that the victim be buried alive. Will the drug wear off before they put him in a coffin six feet under the ground?
"Carmilla" is the greatest vampire story ever written (apologies to Mr. Stoker). It is compact, wonderfully atmospheric, and downright creepy. It tells of a young girl who goes to live with her father in a remote part of Austria, where crumbling castles rise up out of dark forests. The girl, who narrates the story, soon befriends a mysterious girl named Carmilla, who shows up as if out of nowhere. Over the next several weeks, things get progressively weird and creepy until the truth about Carmilla comes out, and the classic vampire denouement ensues.
An especially effective moment in the story is when the narrator encounters a painting of Carmilla - a painting which is a few hundred years old.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
With the exception of Green Tea, which any fan of The Simpsons appreciate, I was bored. I failed to recognize what might have been inventive for its time ... But only came up with a few hours of Yawn.
0 of 3 people found this review helpful
This was an interesting collection of stories, largely because of the place Le Fanu holds in the history of horror fiction. There's no doubt that he was a great writer, though some of the stories are rather dated now and, from my experience as a 21st century reader, a bit disappointing. I thought 'The Room in the Dragon Volant' was superb though. If I'd just heard that as a short story by itself I'd have given it 5 stars across the board! :0)