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ILL MET BY DARKNESS by Paul Finch - Review Part 4.

The final novella in this collection from Sarob Press is 'Spirit of the Season', which 'explores the idea of old Christmas, strange ritual, ancient powers and age-old winter terrors'. It certainly does. 

The story begins with a childhood recollection of a rather creepy Christmas decoration. Then we move up to date with a husband and wife team planning the next in a series of books about folklore. The husband, a folklorist, has discovered what he thinks may be the first reference in English to Father Christmas - originally called 'Old Christmas'. He suspects that the familiar character has odd, dark origins and invites a medium to a remote, half-renovated castle where a strange manifestation allegedly took place in the reign of Henry V. 

The medium - one inevitably thinks of Margaret Rutherford - is nervous and wonders if this is a standard haunting or something more peculiar. A foray into the cellars reveals that there are indeed some unburied secrets. Psychic powers are deployed and a very effective scene turns a moderately-paced ghost story into a frenetic chase, with the forces of darkness in full pursuit. At the end of the story the main character finds what he was looking for - in a way. 

The story provides a satisfying ending to an extremely enjoyable book. As always, the action sequence is excellent and the scholarly foundations of the tale well laid. All in all, Ill Met By Darkness is just what the avid reader of spooky tales needs during this long, lockdown winter.