Review: “The Inn of the Black Crow”, William Hope Hodgson, 1915.
Another tax story from Hodgson with the hero and narrator being John Dory, “Secret Exciseman”. (I never had a title like that when I was a tax collector!)
Dory goes to Dunnage, England to investigate some smuggling and the disappearance of another exciseman, and the story is told through Dory’s diary.
The smuggling is directed out of the Inn of the Black Crow where Dory stays. He doesn’t like the innkeeper or a local fisherman – who uses a net instead of good rod and reel – who also turns out to be a smuggler.
Dory exchanges many kisses with the inn’s serving wench who handily prevents him from being poisoned and ultimately helps warn him against the inventive menace of a collapsing bed that descends to the floor below to ambush people and, probably, the missing exciseman. Dory is very cautious about examining his room every night, but he misses this.
Hodgson typically uses silence and sounds to build suspense.
Naturally, Dory escapes the trap and kills the innkeeper and another smuggler and wounds three others.