Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
In The Ghost Club, William Meikle does something quite audacious. He presents a collection of ghostly short stories attributed to several Victorian authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Anton Chekhov, Helena P. Blavatsky, and Henry James. Some of the hauntings in this collection are subtle, while others have high body counts.
“The High Bungalow by Rudyard Kipling” makes allusions to Freemasonry just like the real life Rudyard Kipling did in his stories. “The Immortal Memory by Leo Tolstoy” takes place in Russia as you’d expect and even features Catherine the Great as a character.
“In the House of the Dead by Bram Stoker” is written in the form of journal entries and letters much like Dracula was. I liked some of the old fashioned turns of phrase such as “twelve to the dozen” and “sure as eggs are eggs.” In fact, the language throughout this collection feels authentically Victorian.
“Once a Jackass by Mark Twain” is the funniest story in this collection featuring some great lines such as “I shook his hand – and that is rather too grand a word for the limp, cold thing I felt in my palm”. Also, we are told a passenger on the steamboat “farted as much as he spoke with much the same result at each end”. These are lines that quite plausibly could come from Twain. “The Angry Ghost by Oscar Wilde” is another funny story in which our ten-year-old protagonist is more annoyed by the ghost than frightened by it.
I quite liked “Farside by Herbert George Wells” in which an inventor creates a device that can view people’s auras. In “To the Manor Born by Margaret Oliphant”, reaching out to touch a ghost feels like plunging your fingers into ice, and your hand remains cold long afterward. I also liked that tears turn to ice when you’re in the presence of a ghost. There’s some great images in this story.
“The Black Ziggurat by Henry Rider Haggard” is about a man encountering an ancient civilization in Africa. I particularly liked this line: “I felt that my place in the greater scheme of things might just amount to more than a mere speck of dust at the mercy of the wind.”
In “To the Moon and Beyond by Jules Verne” an inventor is about to launch a rocket when we get this delightfully Victorian turn of phrase: “The lady moon looked down on the park, as if wondering what manner of assault was being considered on her virtue.” Although this story did contain one line that brought me out of the Victorian time period as it reminded me of Beatles lyrics: “I am her and she is me and we are together.”
The collection ends with a story “by” Arthur Conan Doyle, who also writes a brief introduction to each of the other stories in the collection. In “The Curious Affair on the Embankment”, Inspector Lestrade solves a case without the help of Sherlock Holmes for once and, in keeping with the theme of this collection, the case turns out to be supernatural.
I didn’t care for every story in this collection, but overall, the stories were fantastic and did feel like authentic Victorian ghost stories. I’m not enough of an expert in Victorian literature to say if Meikle successfully impersonated all of the individual writers or not, but there are certainly a lot of great authentic-sounding lines throughout.