Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship, Chris Priestley

I was absolutely delighted when this dropped through the letterbox.

I packed it in my bag for lazy day out we had planned, expecting to be able to read it at my leisure. However, things didn’t quite go as planned and on the drive home we found ourselves stuck in the gigantic parking lot known as the M25. Sick of the drivel on the radio and the CD’s in the player, I asked Liz to dig out the Black Ship and read me a page or two.

After only a little pleading, she agreed and so it was that the newest Tales of Terror were told to me as they should be. I can’t remember the last time anyone read to me; I can happily say that the Tales are perfectly suited for this kind of storytelling. If you like your kids clinging to you at night I’d recommend reading these as bedtime stories!

Not surprisingly, given the title, this volume of Tales has a nautical theme. We meet the sickly siblings Ethan and Cathy as they wait for their father to return one storm lashed night. In the deep of the night they answer a knock on the door, and we meet the enigmatic Mr Thackeray, a sailor seeking shelter from the storm that rages beyond the Old Inn. To repay their kindness and pass the time, he kindly offers to tell them stories from the high seas, terrifying tales which couldn’t possibly be true..

Chris has a talent for tension. It lurks in every sentence, a gently nagging feeling that something isn’t right.. it takes hold early, and becomes increasingly insistent until the dreadful truth of things spills out. The tales are laced with mischievous menace,told with relish and beg to be read out loud by firelight. On Halloween.

‘The Boy in the Boat’ was a particular treat, the promise of something dark and dreadful woven through every sentence, staying with you long after you’ve turned the last page. It creeped Liz out completely.

Dave Roberts’ scratchy illustrations suit the tone of the book perfectly, flavouring the pages with a sense of childish mischief and lurking horror.

All in, it's a wonderful book and a welcome addition to my hoard. I can only hope there’s more to come- it would be a crying shame if there isn’t.

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