Carcnacki the Ghost Finder is a book by William Hope Hodgson featuring cases by the occult detective, Thomas Carnacki. The book was first published in 1913 in English by the British Publisher Eveleigh Nash. It has a rating of 3.79/5.0 on Goodreads.com as of November 19, 2015.
Carnacki was written during the height of popularity of detective fiction ushered in by the success of Sherlock Holmes, and there are certainly similarities between the two detectives and in the format of the stories, each devoted to a single case solved by the detective. However, Hodgson's innovation was to make Carnacki a detective who only investigated the paranormal, from hauntings to demonic intrusions into our world. He was armed with a variety of occult weapons including an Electronic Pentacle, a high-tech (for the time) contraption built with early 1900 vacuum tube technology, as well as various mysterious books of hidden knowledge and spells.
It is interesting to note that Carnacki's ghost finding methods in many ways foresahdow those of modern ghost finders. Shows such as Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, and many clones on the same theme, all rely on various electronic gadgets to communicate with the spirits or catch some trace of them on video or audio.
In the Carnacki universe, ghosts, demons and other entities are real and have a scientific basis, but not all of the cases that he investigates involve true paranormal phenomena; some turn out to be hoaxes. The detective approaches the phenomena with a calm, business like attitude, unraveling the mystery and banning the entities from whatever house or person that they are tormenting. He then recounts his adventures to a gathering of friends at dinner, one of whom plays a role analogous to that of Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Six of the stories were originally published in the Idler magazine and then collected in the first edition of Carnacki the Ghost Finder; for the second edition, an additional three stories found among the author's papers after his death were added.
Despite being somewhat derivative of Sherlock Holmes, Carnacki spawned a number of imitators. Blackwood's paranormal detective forms part of a tradition of other supernatural sleuths such as Dr. Hesselius by Sheridan Le Fanu, John Silence by Algernon Blackwood, and even -- though much later -- the intrepid Mulder and Scully from the X-Files. Authors such as Algenrnon Blackwood and H. P. Lovecraft acknowledged Hodgson and his character Thomas Carnacki as an influence and inspiration for their work.
Still, it cannot be denied that some of Hodgson's writing is formulaic. The stories all are told by Carnacki at a dinner gathering of four of his male friends, who exhibit a surprising lack of inquisitiveness or skepticism; they ask few questions and Carnacki does almost all of the talking. And the language is often stilted and there is little if any character development. But as often happens, the strength of the idea or the concept manages to rise above the somewhat mediocre writing.
This book is not as well written or as atmospheric as Hodgson's House on the Borderland or his bleak masterpiece, the Nightland. But even so it is worth a read.
Written by Victor Doppelt.
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