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Twenty-one highly varied brevities, some rare, most old, a few newish--but not up to La Kahn's usual standards for mixing mystery stories with ghost tales and true-crime accounts. Strangely enough, the broad supernatural category fares best, with top honors to the more ancient entires--an E. F. Benson rediscovery about an executed-murderer ghost who haunts by telephone, E. H. Lacon Watson's surprise-end London drollery, and Fitz-James O'Brien's pre-Civil War ""What Was It?"" which is similar to and every bit as good as Bierce's ever-anthologized ""The Damned Thing."" On the other hand, none of the psycho-suspense-detection tales is really distinguished, though Berton Rouechè supplies a nifty sliver of homicidally displaced hostility, Gilbert Highet zaps in with a sudden octopus, and Robie Macauley's heavyhanded parable of whitey paranoia moves along briskly; downright embarrassing (though perhaps of nostalgic value to some) are H. S. Harrison's painfully predictable ""Miss Hinch"" and Stacy Aumonier's fluttery ""Miss Bracegirdle Does Her Duty"" (""She, Millicent Bracegirdle, spending a night under a strange man's bed in a foreign hotel!""). But weakest of all is the true-crime selection, which--except for a first-person penal-colony escape--suffers from no style or too much (a purply turn-of-the-century rehash of the Jim Fisk murder); all pale beside a true true-crime man like Jonathan Goodman (above). And, finally, of literary rather than mysterious interest are an evil-eye saga from Thomas Hardy, women sticking together via Susan Glaspell, a Damon Runyonette, and a daub of Katherine Mansfield local color. Creatively selected, judiciously balanced, graced with biographical notes--just not much fun to read.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin