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Don't Look Now: 08/11/07

Don't Look Now

Don't Look Now (also published as Not After Midnight) is a compilation of five short stories by Daphne du Maurier. I read the book for the Classics Challenge. It's my first completed book in the challenge as I'd completely forgotten that the challenge had started in July!

Don't Look Now: The book starts of strongly with a perfect mixture of humor, horror and irony. I can see why Hitchcock liked to use du Maurier's works for his movies. A husband and wife recovering from the recent death of their daughter have gone on a well needed holiday to Italy while their remaining child is away at school. A brief joking encounter with a pair of elderly sisters leads the couple into a nightmarish finish to their trip.

One of the sisters claims to be psychic. She says their little girl is with them always and wants to protect them. Here though is where the story picks up pace and I dare not say more to spoil an excellent ending. The ending though had an excellent pay-off that made me feel both sorry for the main characters and had me laughing.

The Breakthrough: This story mixes the occult with science. A young man and self proclaimed loner takes on a new job at what he thinks is a small military installation. While there he witnesses some bizarre medical experiments. While it was fun to read, it didn't hit with the same sort of punch as "Don't Look Now." The ending left me wanting more.

Not After Midnight: Of all the stories this was my second favorite. It is told in an extended flashback as a confession from a man who suffered a nervous breakdown while on holiday in Greece. The ambiguous ending made the story for me: either the protagonist was cursed or guilt has gotten the best of him. Either ending is satisfactory. If I were a English or literature teacher, I would assign "Not After Midnight" for an essay assignment.

A Border-Line Case: This story reminded me of the Avenger's episode: "What the Butler Saw" mixed with the finale of Remington Steele ("Steeled with a Kiss") with a light dash of Puckoon for flavoring. The IRA bit of the story felt contrived as if the only reason to ever have a story set in Ireland is to have an IRA plot. This otherwise eccentric and fun story doesn't need to IRA piece to make it either interesting or entertaining.

The Way of the Cross: The book ends with a short story reminiscent of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun without the murder or mayhem. Instead we have Robin who is in the same vein of character as Ramses (a proto-Ramses since this story was written in 1971) who hopes to witness the second coming of Christ. There are no twists in the plot or the humor of the earlier stories. It's just a dull bus strip through Jerusalem.

Over all I enjoyed this collection of short stories but the book would have been better without the final story. It was a nice way to start of my participation in the Classics Challenge.

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