Monday, 23 April 2018

'The Second Crown'

This story from Kate Haynes' collection Waiting in the Shadows (Sarob Press) is a pendant to M.R. James' 'A Warning to the Curious'. The second of the three crowns of East Anglia, as you may know, is held to have been lost when a Saxon palace was inundated by the sea. In this story we find a diver with modern gear who thinks it's possible to recover the 'lost' crown.

That, in itself, is a pretty good premise. What's interesting is the way in which the treasure hunt is the 'A plot' that runs alongside the 'B plot'. The diver's wealthy girlfriend, who funds his expeditions, is the protagonist, and she is pregnant when the story begins. It is her pregnancy and concern for her unborn child that takes us forward as much as the revelation that the second crown has a guardian - and a familiar one to MRJ fans.

'The Second Crown' is an unusual story. Not by any means a Jamesian pastiche, it instead combines the Gothic element - a woman deceived/misused - with the supernatural plot. No way could Monty have written this, which makes it an interesting exploration of the world of scholarly spookery he created.

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