Friday, October 12, 2012

James-A-Day: The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral

Everyone loves Barsetshire, it seems.  I wonder if more writers have used Trollope's fictional county for short stories like this?  Angela Thirkell, of course, wrote a whole string of novels set in Barsetshire, but I didn't realize that anyone else had used it.  I think I need a list!

I thought it was interesting that this story begins with a hook I haven't seen MRJ use yet.  Here's a nice old man, but he died in a horrible way, and let's talk about it...wait, first I have to tell you how I got there.  It's badly overused now in television, where it seems like you see it done every week--the episode starts in the middle of some incredibly dangerous and highly improbable situation, stops right before everyone dies, and then says "Three days earlier..." and starts the story.  I wonder how common it was a hundred years ago?  Was MRJ using a well-worn trope, or one that hadn't yet been overdone?

Right at the beginning we get a hint that something isn't right and the poor old archdeacon was done away with.  Who could possibly put a stair-rod under the carpet unless it was on purpose?   (In case you are wondering, a stair-rod is a piece of hardware to hold a runner of carpet down on the stairs, like so.  I don't think I've ever seen one in real life, but maybe you have.)  You have to wonder, though, why anyone would bother to try to kill a 92-year-old man.

Dr. Haynes becomes the new archdeacon and settles in nicely for a while, but he starts having trouble with hearing things.  A couple of times he touches the carvings on his cathedral chair and seems to feel them move. The position of archdeacon comes with a condition, it seems: those carvings know if someone has "a Bloody hand" and will take revenge.  Dr. Haynes is not only haunted, he is fetched to his death in a manner suitable to the crime he committed.

What did you think of this one?

No comments: