The reason for choosing this book was that I started it on Halloween and it seemed appropriate to read it not just because of the theme but also because it is a chance to read something by Friedrich von Schiller, the famous German author.
The story evolves around a Prince who tries to remain incognito but loses his secrecy after he becomes involved with a conman who claims he can summon the dead. In the run up to the séance the Prince keeps coming across a mystery Armenian who seems to know about things that he couldn’t possibly know about unless he was some sort of mind reader or had supernatural powers. In an attempt to explain away what the Armenian summons up, the ghost of his friend, he loses his faith and falls in with bad company. He slides towards disgrace with debts spiralling but what saves him is the Armenian who returns at the end to make things right and restore his faith.
Is it well written?
It has a special feel to it that is hard to create and only a few authors have that ability to produce a sense of anticipation without over hyping it. The thin line between the natural and supernatural is being crossed all the time and as a reader you are given plenty of chances to try and second-guess what is going to happen next. The main characters of the Prince and the Armenian are both shrouded in mystery, one self generated and the other created by others. The key message seems to be that the immoral and faithless will run aground but those with belief will flourish.
Should it be read?
The novel is split into two parts and Book I is a great example of building an atmosphere and there are some genuine spooky moments. Book II is different, partly because the narrator changes, but also it feels that the story doesn’t have as much cohesion and is a series of letters describing events in a jumping type of way that is not as rich as the first part. But, and it is a significant but, bearing in mind that this was written back in the 18th century the story still challenges the reader and even afterwards you are left thinking about the true identity of the Armenian and so it has to be applauded for having that sort of impact.
Personally this reminded me of some of the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and there was a sense of danger that despite the setting did remind me of Jack the Rippers London.
Version read – Hesperus paperback