This collection is often heralded as the beginning of the modern ghost story. James, a meticulous professor with a penchant for scary tales, began writing ghost stories to read aloud to friends by spooky candlelight. He became highly influential for replacing Gothic tropes with antiquarian aspects, the theme of undying evil that waits for unwitting victims, and picturesque villages or seaside towns. (H.P. Lovecraft was heavily influenced by James.)
He sets a great atmosphere of suspenseful terror by introducing a reserved gentleman protagonist and plopping him in the middle of some mundane business such as sketching an ancient church or going on a golf vacation. From there, some suspicious artifact is uncovered and their day-to-day business becomes much more bizarre and disturbing. Though they all follow this pattern, each story is still uniquely frightening. “Number 13,” “The Mezzotint,” and “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” are my favorites.