Valancourt Books, 2007
[originally published 1900]
"...do you wish me to infer that about the matter there is something supernatural...?"
The Seen and the Unseen is my second foray into the mind of Richard Marsh, and needing more, as soon as I turned the last page I hurried on over to Amazon and picked up Valancourt editions of Curios, The Joss: A Reversion, Both Sides of the Veil and The Datchet Diamonds. I also picked up Leonaur's The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Richard Marsh Volumes two through five. I'd say that qualifies me as being somewhat infatuated with Marsh's work -- it's the kind of stuff you can lose yourself in on a rainy day, curled up in your favorite chair with a cup of spicy chai tea in hand, my favorite type of reading. The Seen and Unseen is so good that it will keep anyone entertained for hours on end.
This book proves that in terms of storytelling ability, Marsh was not a one-note kind of guy. Inside The Seen and the Unseen is an eclectic mix of a dozen stories encompassing the supernatural, the mysterious, and good old-fashioned crime as well as a wide range of characters. I enjoyed them all (maybe not equally), but my favorites are "A Psychological Experiment," in which a strange man carries about his person a bizarre collection of "pretty things;" "The Photographs," which takes place in a prison and centers around "rather a curious thing" going on after a prisoner gets his picture taken; "A Double Minded Gentleman" (which I can't say anything about without giving things away), and "The Houseboat," which has the greatest line ever on page 206:
"I might possess an unsuspected capacity for undergoing strange experiences, but I drew the line at sleeping with a ghost."and is just downright haunting and eerie.
The other stories are all quite good, although I will say that I wasn't so enamored of "The Assassin," which seems sort of out of place in this volume. The saddest story in the collection has to be "The Violin," which begins with an uncle and nephew being serenaded during dinner, while the funniest is most definitely "A Pack of Cards," where an innocent game of cards among strangers on a train turns into a bit of a nightmare for one of the players. That one was actually laugh-out-loud funny and a story that made me feel like the joke was on me when all was said and done.
I absolutely cannot get enough of Richard Marsh -- name your favorite comfort food and his work is its literary equivalent.