THE GHOST DOWNSTAIRS by Leon Garfield

THE GHOST DOWNSTAIRS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two devils lived in Mr. Fast -- envy and loneliness."" So begins this latest of Mr. Garfield's arresting ghost stories, in which a solicitor's clerk preoccupied with policies and premiums and deeds makes a fatal pact with an old man, ""stinking of beetroot soup,"" who appears to be the devil himself. It is the first of his inner demons which drives Fast to the agreement: seven years of his life, complete with soul, in return for a million pounds. Fast prides himself on the shrewd fine print provision that the specified period be his first seven years -- until it becomes clear that ""his dreams, yearnings and the very springs of his desire,"" without which the fortune is useless, have gone with the early childhood that contained them. The clerk's dismay turns to terror when he is haunted by the passionately resentful ghost of his seven year-old self, but he finally appeases the ghost and achieves his own redemption in an act of compassion that costs him his life but nevertheless effects a happy ending. Though the operative device (and the hero's name as well) is Faustian, the bedeviled clerk and his strange encounters are more reminiscent of Scrooge and his Christmas visits -- but Mr. Garfield's suggestive prose provides its own vibrations of evil and mystery.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1972
Publisher: Pantheon