Revelations in Black (Carl Jacobi) Review
This collection of horror and science fiction/horror tales reminded me of MR James and Robert Aickman, though I actually preferred Jacobi's tales. Revelations in Black is engaging for its duration, with only one very short exception (A Pair of Swords is a trifle).
Carl Jacobi is very good at coming up with an engaging premise---I was interested in each tale in a matter of sentences---and often these set ups involve weirdly affected objects, such as a cane, book, kite, piano, etc. The prose is smoother than many of his pulp contemporaries and the atmosphere is always rich.
What keeps Jacobi's tales from greatness tends to be his plotting, which often relies upon characters compelled to do unlikely things, and his resolutions, which are usually blunt and far less creative than the initial weird set ups (this criticism I feel holds true with MR James as well). But every tale (except for the aforementioned trifle) is engaging and atmospheric, and whenever Jacobi dabbles in pseudo-scientific "science fiction" (A Study in Darkness, Moss Island, Cosmic Teletype, etc.) the logic he employs is really entertaining and the plotting is far less predictable.
Additionally, I should point out that there is one real stunner in this collection-- a story called, The Satanic Piano. This one is longer than most of Jacobi's stories and inventive throughout it's duration; it's the zenith achievement in the book---a tale that ranks with the works of weird fiction masters like Clark Ashton Smith, HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Donald Wandrei, and Algernon Blackwood.
Overall, Revelations in Black is a very enjoyable collection that contains a lot of memorable images.