Book Review: “The Collectors” by Philip Pullman

Like 2020’s Serpentine, The Collectors is a short story set in the universe of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, produced as a small hardcover book with illustrations by Tom Duxbury. Unlike Serpentine, this story doesn’t directly involve any familiar characters, instead playing upon readers’ existing knowledge to create a chilling effect.

In this tale, two scholars and art collectors enjoy after-dinner drinks and conversation at Oxford. One recounts the unusual history of his latest acquisitions: a painting of a young blonde woman and a bronze sculpture of a monkey. Both works of art somehow exert a strange influence on the viewer, and both have a long history of ending up in the same collections, despite having no known connection. Yet strangely enough, no one seems to possess either painting or bronze for very long…

Previously released in e-book and audiobook forms, The Collectors is now available in print for the first time, making it a must for die-hard Pullman fans (who will have immediately recognized the young woman as Mrs. Coulter). It was originally published in 2015 – so don’t expect any hints about the content of The Book of Dust Book 3. But it’s nonetheless a bit of good fun, well-timed for spooky season and a welcome addition to any Pullman shelf.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Knopf, for review.

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