The Lost Stradivarius (1895) By: J. Meade Falkner
Sophie Maltravers relates the tale of her brother to her nephew. At Oxford, John Maltravers and Mr. Gaskell discover a piece of music called the Areopagita Gagliarda. Each night when they play it they hear someone sit down in a wicker chair in the room. This presence also gets up when they finish. Soon they cannot resist and play the piece whenever they are together. After a frenzied night and a ghostly encounter, John discovers a hidden cubby in his room with the finest violin he's ever seen.
The build up during the first half of the novel is superb. The climb from small noises to full manifestation is awesome. Unfortunately, John's slide off the deep end during the second half takes up far too much of the novel. The frame story flows nicely during the first half and then becomes bogged down by Sophie's lack of information on the happenings in the second half. If it had switched to Gaskell, who finishes the story, earlier, it would have had a tighter narrative.
Lord John Maltravers becomes obsessed with the violin and its owner Adrian Temple. This obsession leads him down a road of self destruction.
Mr. Gaskell is a friend of John's from Oxford. He first introduces the piece to John and is skeptical of the ghostly happenings surrounding the Stradivarius. He section of the tale is most enlightening and provides a long overdue payoff and a beautiful end to the story.
Constance is John's girlfriend and future wife. She, much like women of her time, lives through her husband. She is worse affected than her husband by his possession.
Adrian Temple is a sinister man whose wanton decadence leads to the deaths of many. Unfortunately, we never find out exactly what he was up to, but in the larger sense of the narrative, it doesn't matter.
From the Oxford halls to the house of Worth Maltravers, the environment is beautifully rendered. I especially enjoyed the visions of the apparition. The porse during John's time in Europe is less so as we're dictated vague letters.
In the End
Much like Carmilla, the end of the story proper isn't that great, but the end of the novel is awesome.
The Lost Stradivarius is a mixed bag with half of it being great and half being filler. However, the strength of the first half and the very end of the novel make it a worthwhile read with especially creepy atmosphere and some great ideas about music's affect on the psyche. It has been compared to the work of M.R. James, so check out the better of his short stories to see if you'll like this.
Read it on Project Gutenberg and Kindle.