'The Outsider' by Rick Kennett

We continue my reading of The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Mazes with a tale in the Charlie Pine series. Charlie Pine is Rick Kennett's Aussie ghostbuster, but in this story he ends up in the old country. Pine's motorbike collides with an aristo's car and he ends up being looked after at Woodthorpe, where the lord has been having some problems with his maze...

This is a neatly structured story that rings the changes on the basic premise devised by M.R. James. Here we find not an evil sorceror's spirit at the heart of the maze, but a hapless victim of colonialism. It's an example of synchronicity, perhaps, that I read this story a couple of days after the statue of a slave trader was dumped into Bristol dock. In this case the black victim of British imperial cruelty is not African but Aboriginal, and after some initial manoeuvres Charlie grasps what needs to be done move his spirit on.

This is a good-humoured and human story that reminds us of the dark side of the British ruling classes - they didn't get all that land and money by being nice. To anybody. But it also offers a likeable ally to the oppressed in the person of Charlie Pine, who is on the right side of history as well as the good side of (some) ghosts.

More from this enjoyable book very soon.


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