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review 2016-06-05 17:35
The Bishop of Hell: Short Stories of a Ghostish Nature
The Bishop of Hell & Other Stories - Marjorie Bowen

First of all I have to note that this isn't the edition I read - I read it via ebook thanks to Gutenberg Australia:

 

The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories by Marjorie Bowen

On that page it tells you which collection each of the stories are originally printed in.

 

wikipedia: Marjorie Bowen

 

Take a moment to quickly look at Bowen's wiki page and how many books she's written. And some under different names - that was a list that probably took a bit to compile. I now feel weird for not knowing more about her - because I'm pretty sure I've read many of her short stories before - I have a collection of ghost story anthologies and I'll bet she's well represented in them.

 

What's interesting is that I didn't at all guess that she'd been writing on into the 1950s. Bowen's style definitely has some of that "earlier time," old fashioned feel to it - though most of the stories in the book were written between 1900 to 1930s. Note that I've only read her short stories - no idea what her many novels are like. Though one of 

 

If you're looking for something with loads of gore and hack and slash - nope, this is the type with more atmosphere, less blood. Which of course doesn't mean it's not tropey - lots of debauched noblemen types scampering about in here. And some "enjoy this bad person get his/her just desserts" types of stories. (You know anyone who disrespects/mistreats an old woman is In For It.) But then that's what you sign up for in the majority of ghost stories - justified revenge. We don't want to see the clever psychopath get away with his crime - that's a modern twist, playing for antiheroics - no, many of us are pleased to have that psychopath learn the hard way via ghostly vengeance. Though I should add here that there's not always a satisfying revenge-death in all of these - one or two have "wait, that seems unfair" deaths.

 

I can't easily quote without spoilers - but here's a snip from one of the more modern stories where a woman visits someone she thinks is an elderly collector of china - The Crown Derby Plate:

 

"Do you really do everything yourself here and live quite alone?" she asked, and she shivered even in her thick coat and wished that Miss Lefain's energy had risen to a fire, but then probably she lived in the kitchen, as these lonely eccentrics often did.

 

"There was someone," answered Miss Lefain cunningly, "but I had to send her away. I told you she's gone, I can't find her, and I am so glad. Of course," she added wistfully, "it leaves me very lonely, but then I couldn't stand her impertinence any longer. She used to say that it was her house and her collection of china! Would you believe it? She used to try to chase me away from looking at my own things!"

 

"How very disagreeable," said Miss Pym, wondering which of the two women had been crazy. "But hadn't you better get someone else."

 

"Oh, no," was the jealous answer. "I would rather be alone with my things, I daren't leave the house for fear someone takes them away—there was a dreadful time once when an auction sale was held here—"

 

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