A trill up the spine

I was surprised by, and absolutely loved, J. Meade Falkner's ghost story novella The lost Stradivarius. Falkner only wrote three novels - his best known is his classy tale of smugglers and redemption Moonfleet. The lost Stradivarius was his first novel written in 1895.

I came across the novel purely by chance and drawn by the title decided to read it with, to be quite honest, fairly low expectations. And was overjoyed to find a brilliant, incredibly affecting story told with great bravura. It has that same eerie, uneasy undercurrent as Henry James' Turn of the screw, and the best of M.R. James' ghost stories.

The story opens innocently enough with John Maltravers, an undergraduate at Oxford, playing music with his best friend. The story turns more sinister though when a particular piece of music appears to inspire the arrival of an unearthly guest. When a long lost Stradivarius violin is found in Maltravers' rooms, the story turns into a mixture of ghost story and possession.

It is incredibly eerie, beautifully written, and just the thing to read on the long nights around Halloween. I read it on a particularly windy night on the Suffolk coast, and it's absolutely guaranteed to make you jump out of your skin in that peculiarly pleasurable way that all fans of great ghost story writing appreciate. Spooky, unsettling, and well written. This was an absolute delight to read.


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