By Chris Priestly
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 0 7475 8987 7
Shiver-me-timbers, that crafty teller of flesh-crawling tales, Chris Priestly, is back with another collection of stories to send a shudder up the stiffest spine and freeze the blood in the warmest veins.
A couple of years ago, Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror were a land-locked bunch of spine-tinglers that chilled the bones of readers brave enough to turn the pages. Now Priestley takes to the seas with another set of stories only the foolhardy would read while home alone. The stories in Tales of Terror from the Black Ship are just as deliciously spooky as the ones Uncle Montague told from his cobwebby armchair.
Ethan and his younger sister Cathy live in an old inn on a narrow outcrop of land jutting dangerously out into the sea. The inn used to be packed with guests, but not anymore. Locals are wary of treading the thin path that leads up to their home, and trade is bad. The children's father is struggling to cope with the death of their mother, and his temper and depression drive clients away.
The two children have fallen sick and their father has no option but to leave them at the inn while he braves the storm to get medicine from the village doctor. But Cathy and Ethan are not alone for long. Out of the storm comes a stranger asking for shelter.
The rain-lashed young man, who wears a sailor's uniform, is exhausted from his walk up to the inn. The children let him in, and soon he is entertaining the two of them with spooky stories. But there is an air about the sailor that disturbs Ethan, and he senses something is wrong. Cathy loves macabre tales, and as the storm rages outside, she laps up the stranger's yarns. Ethan listens, wanting their father to return home quickly.
The sailor's stories are, naturally, all set at sea. What could be more frightening than a bottomless sea and the unknown terrors it holds? The tales are full of vampires, tattoos that come alive, devil ships' cats and vengeful ghosts. Who said the sea was a place of peace and beauty?
Wonderfully illustrated by David Roberts, Tales of Terror from the Black Ship is a spookily good read.