When I was compiling my list of books to take on holiday, I was delighted to find that there was a Daphne Du Maurier short story called Don’t Look Now which was set in Venice. In typical Du Maurier style, Don’t Look Now is a little masterpiece of suspense fiction. It drew me in and gave me a short sharp shock that left me decidedly unnerved.
In the story, John and Laura visit Venice to try to find an escape from the pain of the loss of their daughter and to help patch up their relationship. While out for lunch one day they encounter two old women – twins – one of which is blind and appears to have second sight. They make an alarming prophecy. Instead of finding solace on their holiday, John and Laura find themselves entangled in a series of strange events.
Quite simply, Don’t Look Now is one of the creepiest short stories I’ve ever read. I’m sure that it didn’t help that I was in Venice at the time of reading it but I think even without that it would have frightened me.
What I thought was so effective about the story was that the characters of John and Laura were so plausible, their conversations so typical in the way that they joked with each other and then argued over the Twin’s prediction. John takes the rational route, where Laura feels that there could be something in it. Are they really in danger or is Laura just overwrought after the loss of her daughter? It’s actually a pretty sad state of affairs, but Du Maurier is a totally unsentimental author which I think is part of why I love her writing so much.
I’ve only read one of the other stories from this compilation, (Not After Midnight) which I thought was good but nothing like Don’t Look Now. I would totally sanction buying the book just for this one tale though as I haven’t found as suspenseful short story since I read Sophie Hannah’s The Octopus Nest from The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets.
Don’t read Don’t Look Now if you’re easily spooked!
Have you read any really good short stories recently?