What happens when you take two masters of narration and set them in front of the words of two masters of supernatural fiction? Well… you get something like THE HAUNTED HOUSE AT LATCHFORD & THE HAUNTED HOTEL! Two classic tales from the golden age of supernatural fiction together in one original audiobook compilation.
First up: THE HAUNTED HOUSE AT LATCHFORD by Mrs. J.H. Riddell
Originally published under the title Fairy Water for the Routledge Christmas Annual for 1873, THE HAUNTED HOUSE AT LATCHFORD highlights Riddell’s distinct ability to mesh together the mundane and material parts of our world with the supernatural in the most haunting way. Stefan Rudnicki brings the barrister-at-law, H. Stafford Trevor, to life in this first story. Having agreed to act as best man at his cousin’s wedding, and having been surprised and appalled that his cousin’s fiancée is hardly more than a child, Mr. Trevor naturally steps in to act as the girl’s guardian when his cousin dies.
Useful man though he is, Mr. Trevor begins to have troubles at his own country house, Crow Hall, and he cannot devote all his time to the young widow when the mysterious legends surrounding the estate are starting to seem like something more than spooky stories. Meanwhile, the young widow living in the house at Fairy Water, the home that should have been Mr. Trevor’s had his cousin not married, may be connected supernatural happenings at Crow Hall.
About the Author: Charlotte Riddell (1832-1906), who wrote under the pen name Mrs. J.H. Riddell, was one of the most popular and influential writers of the Victorian era, and she published fifty-six novels and tales. Riddell is best known for her ghost stories, including The Haunted House at Latchford and The Uninhabited House. She was also a part-owner and editor of St. James’s Magazine, a very popular and well-respected London-based literary journal in the 1860s.
Born in Ireland, Riddell showed a passion for literature and at early age and had written her first novel (unpublished) at the age of fifteen. About writing this novel, she said, “It was on a bright moonlight night—I can see it now flooding the gardens—that I began, and I wrote week after week, never ceasing until it was finished.”
“I never remember the time when I did not compose. Before I was old enough to hold a pen I used to get my mother to write down my childish ideas and a friend remarked to me quite lately that she distinctly remembers my being discouraged in the habit, as it was feared I might be led into telling untruths. In my very early days I read everything I could lay my hands on.”
–Charlotte Riddell speaking to Helen C. Black, in an interview for the book Notable Women Authors of the Day (1893)
On to: THE HAUNTED HOTEL: A MYSTERY OF MODERN VENICE by Wilkie Collins
In THE HAUNTED HOTEL: A MYSTERY OF MODERN VENICE, Gabrielle de Cuir expertly narrates the story of a scandalous engagement between Lord Montbarry and the adventurous, swindling Countess Narona. Before their marriage, Lord Montbarry had taken out a ten-thousand pound life insurance policy and when the couple go on holiday to Venice Montbarry dies of bronchitis.
No evidence is found that would implicate the Countess in her late husband’s death, and so she is awarded the money and leaves for America. Years later, the palazzo where the couple had stayed, and where Lord Montbarry died, is converted into a fashionable hotel. Relatives of the late lord unknowingly stay in that hotel, and it quickly becomes clear that something terrible must have happened there and Lord Montbarry’s death may have been due to circumstances far more sinister than a simple illness.
“In this story, as the chief character is internally melodramatic, the story itself ceases to be merely melodramatic, and partakes of true drama.”
—T. S. Eliot on THE HAUNTED HOTEL
About the Author: Wilkie Collins (1824–1889) was one of the finest writers of the Victorian period. He is most famous for writing The Moonstone, which has been called the finest detective story ever written, and The Woman in White. In fact, The Woman in White was so beloved that when he died, his tombstone was inscribed: “Author of The Woman in White.”
Collins studied law, but he was never able to shake the writing bug. Although he was admitted to the bar, he never practiced law. Instead he devoted his life to writing and wrote thirty novels, sixty short stories, fourteen plays, and over one hundred non-fiction pieces. Collins was also a close friend of Charles Dickens, and had a number of his stories published in Dickens’ Household Words and All the Year Round.
“The most easily deteriorated of all the moral qualities is the quality called ‘conscience.’ In one state of a man’s mind, his conscience is the severest judge that can pass sentence on him. In another state, he and his conscience are on the best possible terms with each other in the comfortable capacity of accomplices.”
THE HAUNTED HOUSE AT LATCHFORD by Mrs. J. H. Riddell
Read by Stefan Rudnicki
Mrs. J. H. Riddell excelled at blending the realistic and supernatural elements in her stories. In Essex she found the right dreary setting for The Haunted House at Latchford, “where beyond the fated house and ruined garden lay the belt of pine trees and the lake of the dismal swamp, which had furnished Crow Hall with no less than two tragedies.”
THE HAUNTED HOTEL by Wilkie Collins
Read by Gabrielle de Cuir
Like Edgar Allan Poe before him and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle after, Wilkie Collins shifted easily from rational domains to the “superrational.” The Haunted Hotel exhibits the same relentless pace and narrative power, the same attention to plot and backdrop detail that distinguish The Moonstone and The Woman in White, along with the obsession with destiny and the willful struggle against it. Collins’ much-loved Venice provides the scenery and fatal beauty, the grim waterways and palaces the author will haunt with mysterious women, grotesques, and bloody conspiracies.