The Master of the House: Tales of Twilight and Borderlands
by John Gaskin
Review by Mario Guslandi
The Tartarus Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781905784622
Date: 03 March 2014 List Price £35.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
A former academic in philosophy, John Gaskin is an elder gentleman devoted to writing elegant, dark fiction in the tradition of the classic English ghost stories and eerie tales. His first two collections The Dark Companion and The Long Retreating Day have been well received by conoisseurs and lovers of subtly unnerving, well written short fiction. Tartarus Press is now providing a third volume of "tales of twilight and borderlands", featuring nine original stories and three reprints.
Needless to say, the quality of the included material is consistently good, with some excellent pieces and a couple of outstanding stories. Thus, with your permission, I will simply focus on the best titles, leaving to the reader the pleasure of discovering afresh the merely good material.
First of all I want to mention the three tales which, to me, represent the highlights of the book. The first one is "The Double Crossing", an extraordinary, uncanny piece displaying the masterful characterization of the intrigues and conspiracies taking place in a College during an exceptionally cold and icy winter. The other ones are "The Master of the House", a superb, scary tale revisiting in a modern fashion (but with a touch of ancient wisdom and classical culture) the time honored theme of the haunted house, and "The Memento Mori", a sinister, atmospheric story about a disquieting but fascinating object required by an eager, unlucky collector.
Other splendid pieces are "Party Talk", a fine example of Gaskin's superior storytelling ability, a disturbing, clever story about love and death. "Addendum to a Confession" is a sophisticated railway ghost story leaving behind the uneasy feeling that reality is quite deceiving and "Where Shadows Lead", a traditional but effective tale where ghosts save a man lost in the woods during a terrible blizzard.
In short, a splendid collection of stories to be savored slowly but deeply, just like a glass of vintage wine.