Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth by Chris Priestley
A boy is put on a train by his stepmother to make his first journey on his own. But soon that journey turns out to be more of a challenge than anyone could have imagined as the train stalls at the mouth of a tunnel and a mysterious woman in white helps the boy while away the hours by telling him stories - stories with a difference.
This is the third installment of Priestley's chilling trilogy, and it has to be the most terrifying yet. It's even more captivating, and even more closely weaved than its predecessors.
Priestley doesn't allow you any respite. You are never settled into the story, you aren't nicely carried along. You are reading in a perpetual state of unease, your shoulders are at your ears, and your disconcerted body throws goosebumps up all over your skin. These stories are so strange, so unnerving, that it's impossible to relax when reading them. It's wonderful.
The format is the same as the previous two novels; stories are told to our protagonist, and we glimpse both the storyteller and listener interacting between tales. We know something isn't quite right, but it isn't until the end that the twist is revealed. Despite Priestley's delicious little hints, I wasn't able to work out the storyteller's secret this time, and I loved the book even more for this. The tension was unbearable, and the trilogy is tied up nicely with an incredibly frightening nod towards the first novel.
My favourite story was The New Governess, a gorgeous twist on The Turn of the Screw, which I've only just recently read. I wasn't able to look under my dinner table for a few nights afterwards.
These aren't your usual kid's tales where the bad guy gets his comeuppance at the end. Priestley will kill off the good guys, the innocent, and more often than not, the kids. I love this about his novels. He shows that these terrible, frightening scenes can happen to anyone, and that's what makes it all the more terrifying.
Once again, I found the stories bloody terrifying, and once again I will add that I am very easily scared, particularly by the supernatural. I did find this round a bit more macabre than the previous two novels, and again I wonder how children can get through them without turning into a gibbering wreck. Perhaps they are just made of sterner stuff than this whimpering (almost) twenty-six year old. Despite my lack of nerve, I'd challenge anyone to get through this book without at least one chill racing down their spine.
Priestley is absolutely fantastic, and I would encourage anyone to read this trilogy. The short stories are entirely timeless and remarkable. I'd encourage anyone to give these a try, and if you say you aren't frightened by at least one of the stories, I absolutely will not believe you.