Three novellas by a little-known master of horror visit luxurious locations in the twilight zone.
In his introduction to this collection, Daniel Handler finds himself at a loss for words to describe the work of Ingalls (Times Like These, 2005, etc.)—the best he can come up with is “psychological.” So he writes to the author, an American in her late 70s who has lived in the U.K. for more than 50 years. She suggests “a combination of fable, fairytale, and Romance….Maybe that is Gothic.” Whatever their genre, the stories are wry, elegant, and terrifying. The first, I See a Long Journey—also the longest and the best—is Edith Wharton meets Shirley Jackson. It begins in a leisurely fashion, describing how Flora happened to marry James, the scion of “one of the richest families on the Eastern seaboard,” detailing the marriages of the other siblings and getting into a bit of family politics. When Flora and James decide to take a vacation, with their bodyguard, even that unfurls slowly, with the couple dawdling in the airport gift shop buying gifts for their children before they have even left. When they get to their destination and begin to while away the days shopping, eating, and visiting a local oracle, what we have suspected is confirmed—Flora has a raging secret crush on the bodyguard. You will have absolutely no idea where this story is going until it gets there, though when you read it again, as you well might, you see the author almost came out and told you several times. The second is almost a Rocky Horror Picture Show setup—a couple gets lost on their way to visit the eponymous Friends in the Country and winds up fogged in at a mansion with bizarre company and very, very bad food. On Ice sends a nice American girl on a ski vacation with her German boyfriend—but it is certainly not about skiing.
People who think they don’t like horror stories are going to be very surprised.