despite the fact that this book does not contain a bunch of "death by shark" stories that cover made me believe it would (this edition is from 1979 and i can't help but think it was trying to trick people with jawsmania), it is nonetheless a killer collection. my favourite story is the first, by jack finney (to those that know me, that should come as no surprise). i would call "of missing persons" a perfect gem of a tale -- the title is perhaps the most prosaic thing about this story that keeps doubling-back, that gives hope and despair, and a wistful plea that is the hallmark of a good jack finney tale.
it's followed by "island of fear" by william sambrot, another story that i tried to resist because it played in such familiar territory but it was so such a finely crafted little story, that in the end, i succumbed to it, i said, "ah, it's her" and welcomed the familiar arrival -- another character i won't name who is special to me -- but that is one clue to her identity: most stories about her end with her coming.
"getting rid of george" is a fun little romp, reminiscent of arsenic and old lace, or dare i say it? weekend at bernie's -- but better of course than weekend at bernie's! much better. :)
"treasure trove" by F. Tennyson Jesse was published in 1928, and while i won't say it's dated, it feels like it was written in a time when people would have felt the weight of the story's outcome keenly.
all four of these are well-crafted examples of short form: immediately building the backdrop and drawing the reader in with characters also quickly delineated, and they play out their inexorable tension to the moment of climax each time with a creeping, increasing anxiety. you can see why they're in a hitchcock collection: they are splendid stories of suspense.
i like the next two stories less: not that i don't think "the body of the crime" or "a nice touch" aren't as well written. it really just comes down to subject matter for these two, i think. in the first, i felt frustrated by the ending. i wasn't sure what was happening for most of the story, and when it culminated there was definitely a vague sense of being cheated, though i can't say that others would feel the same way. i'm thinking if you liked the life of pi, you would like the ending provided here. as for "a nice touch" i couldn't help but think it read a lot like "pretty mouth and green my eyes" by salinger, except with murder, and so it takes the honours as the least favourite of the stories in the book.
the last story is a novella by hilda lawrence called "composition for four hands". a web search let me know that hitchcock filmed it as "the long silence" for his hour-long television show in 1963 i really do need to invest in a couple of seasons of this on dvd.) without giving too much away, the story revolves around an invalid, a paralyzed woman, surrounded by her family and neighbours. it shunts back and forth from her silent monologue, to the action of the people around her, sometimes moving into the nurse's head, and then a neighbour's. at one point in the story, i'm not even sure who is speaking, though it is ostensibly the nurse, describing bedrooms in the hallway. more plodding that the other stories, it is nevertheless nerve-wracking, and has flashes of a shirley jackson's version of claustrophobia, and i'm curious enough about her to try to seek out the four mystery novels she wrote. or at least one. :)
a very readable collection in a slim volume. perfect for an evening home alone such as hitchcock describes in his introduction: "When you begin reading, may I suggest you choose a time when you are alone in the house. If there are people there, get rid of them. The book is full of suggestions of how this can be accomplished. Now turn out all the lights you possibly can, look over the stories, and take one before retiring. If you want to sample another, help yourself, but be careful. An overdose could be fatal. After all, this is a highly toxic book."