... does have some of Christie’s greatest creations ... a reminder of why Christie was one of the English language’s premiere stylists. Yes, her characters came lock, stock and barrel from cultural and class stereotypes. And yes, Christie’s plots are often absurd. But it is high time to recognize that Christie was a great writer; not a great mystery writer, just a great writer. The Last Seance shows that Christie could pull off stories of supernatural suggestion, and that she was fantastic at creating atmosphere ... the perfect Sunday read for the autumnal season.
The most satisfying horror stories, to me, share that impetus towards justice that is a hallmark of the mystery genre, even when said justice is thwarted or subverted. This collection overall gets that balance between horror and mystery exactly right, though several of the more supernatural tales—and particularly the ones involving children—do not conclude happily for all involved. But it wouldn’t be a truly representative collection of scary stories if justice was always served in the end. That’s part of Dame Christie’s spooky brilliance, knowing when to satisfy readers with the mundane monstrosity of a human murderer and when to leave us with the chilling touch of the unknowable.
Overall, the stories are genuinely short and showcase Christie’s talent for storytelling as well as for accessible writing, which means the material will also work perfectly in writing workshops and as assigned readings. A worthy purchase for short story and mystery fans; the release of the Downton Abbey movie might also increase demand for materials from this period.