General Heatherstone is not an unfriendly person, really. He’s just very, very nervous. So nervous, in fact, that he has converted his new home, Cloomber Hall, into a fortress and keeps his family as veritable prisoners behind its walls. His neighbor John Fothergill West has taken an interest in the Heatherstones, and John soon finds motives besides curiosity for uncovering the general’s secret enemies, who seem to have superhuman powers at their command.
I had high hopes for this novella by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I must give it an unfortunate 2 out of 5 stars. I don’t ascribe to the opinion that Doyle’s non-Sherlock writings are inferior; in fact, I’ve enjoyed much of his other writing, which may account for my disappointment with this one.
There are some wonderful descriptions, a good dose of mysterious happenings, and a magnificent shipwreck scene. I also felt that Doyle’s portrayal of the Afridis was a sympathetic one.
However, the book’s slow pace and final conclusion ruined the story for me. Doyle is an interesting author in that he could direct a weird story towards either a supernatural conclusion or a scientific conclusion. In the Mystery of Cloomber, many strange things happen that the narrator concludes act as evidence for occult powers. Can the reader find scientific explanations for them? Yes, easily, but that is not the ultimate theme of the book.
If you are looking for more Doyle to read, then by all means check out The Lost World or Brigadier Gerard, etc. I can’t say I recommend this one.