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Tales of Terror: Stepping Stones    by Les Martin & Edgar Allan Poe order for
Tales of Terror
by Les Martin
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

This Stepping Stones™ Classic chapter book tickles the reader's spine with four macabre Tales of Terror, adapted by Les Martin from the collection of noted author Edgar Allan Poe.

The coil of frights begins with The Masque of the Red Death - a plague that kills many. Prince Prospero, the ruler of the land - 'strongest of the strong', 'bravest of the brave', and 'richest of the rich' - is determined to dodge the Red Death. Of his many castles, one is his favorite, with hundreds of rooms in different colors, stocked with food for years, enclosing wine cellars and fruit gardens within its walls. The Prince invites his royal court of knights, ladies, entertainers, and servants - a thousand people or more - to join him in the safety of this astounding castle. The finishing touch is a solid iron door, constructed after all have entered the castle, then locked and sealed with 'molten metal'. As boredom heightens, the Prince invites all to participate in a costume ball, to be held within his private quarters. One guest in particular comes dressed to kill!

Filled with hatred and rage, a male member of the Montresor family is determined to get even with a man named Fortunato, who spitefully tricked Montresor out of money, stole the girl he loved, while insulting and laughing at his noble family and its ancestors. In his revenge he encourages Fortunato's ego - that he is a wise man in many ways, especially regarding a certain vintage of wine. Montresor leads the boastful, agreeable Fortunato down ... down ... down ... into the family cellars, filled with more than aging wine, especially The Cask of Amontillado.

A poor man who is highly intelligent, and sensitive in hearing and sight, narrates The Tell-Tale Heart. He sees and hears things that most people cannot. A kind and understanding rich man offers the poor man free room and board, in exchange for helping the aged man with household chores. But the narrator also knows the elderly man scorns his impoverished state. When the police come to the door after receiving a call from neighbors about a scream in the night, the poor man invites the officers to investigate the premises, advising them that the owner is on a trip to Europe. Just as he gloats over his cunning, the poor man hears a noise - the beating of a heart. But how can that be ... ?

The well-known Pit and The Pendulum is a frightful tale of a French agent in Spain, during the time of the Holy Inquisition. He hears the verdict at his trial: 'You are condemned to death!' At these words the man faints, to awake in a dungeon. But he does not know how he is to die. The condemned man becomes aware of a 'circular pit' as he feels his way in the total darkness. In a short distance he notices a 'strange glow of light' - and the worst is yet to come!

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts in the early 1800s. Drawn to a literary life, Poe was employed as a magazine editor and critic, while building his writing career. Though Poe has authored renowned poems, it's Tales of Terror such as these that have enthralled his reading audience.

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