The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories
Marjorie Bowen (1885-1952) spent the early part of her working life providing for a demanding and ungrateful family. We are lucky that she did so, since among the results were these short stories of rare quality. In their use of dreams, ancient anecdote, and ruined or dilapidated buildings ('Florence Flannery', 'The Fair Hair of Ambrosine') they are at times in the finest tradition of The Castle of Otranto and the Gothic revival which had chilled the blood of the British public a hundred and fifty years earlier.
But her stories are more subtle in their construction, and often use simple materials ('The Crown Derby Plate', Elsie's Lonely Afternoon'), interweaving their terror and mystery with the commonplace of everyday life. Their mastery of detail, sureness of expression and acute reading of human nature give them a sinister force, which is realistic and unnerving, yet at the same time tinged with pity and compassion.