Fifth in a series of posts reviewing the stories in Richard Dalby’s 1992 anthology Horror For Christmas. #TheChristmasThatDrippedBlood #horrorforchristmas
"The Crown Derby Plate" by Marjorie Bowen
Easily the best story in Horror For Christmas so far, and the first to provoke anything stronger than an eye roll. This is a ghost story in the M.R. James tradition, but where James's antiquaries tend to be drawn to the supernatural by peculiar relics and mysterious books, Bowen's forthright heroine Martha Pym has her sights on a single china plate.
Thirty years ago at an isolated house on the Essex marshes, Miss Pym purchased a Crown Derby dinner setting, unaccountably missing one plate. Having returned to the area, and hearing that the house has new owners, Miss Pym resolves to pop in and see if the misplaced item has turned up - and if it might be available to purchase.
The house is an uninviting place; even its fruit trees are grim: "their crucified branches, rotting under the great nails that held them up, looked like the skeletons of those who had died in torment." Then there's the new owner, a decrepit and pathetic old thing given to ominous mutterings that the no-nonsense Miss Pym contrives to take at face value.
The reader, who has presumably read a few ghost stories before, has an idea what is happening here. The suspense - and humour - comes from Miss Pym's obliviousness: we are waiting for the spectral shoe to drop. "The Crown Derby Plate" is brief, skilfully told and provides a gratifying shiver: a classic ghost story.
🌲 How Christmassy is it? "Martha Pym said that she had never seen a ghost and that she would very much like to do so, 'particularly at Christmas, for you can laugh as you like, that is the correct time to see a ghost.'"
#horrorstories #horrorfiction #horroranthology #horror #christmasstories
##bookstagram #bookstagrammer #book #books #bibliophile #bookish #bookworm #booknerd #bookaholic #bookaddict #booksofig #booksbooksbooks #libraryofbookstagram #booksofinstagram #instabooks #igreads #literature #readersofinstagram