ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE “The New Catacomb.” First published in The “Sunlight” Year-Book (1898) as “Burger’s Secret.” First collected in Tales of Terror and Mystery (John Murray, UK, hardcover, 1922) and in the US in The Black Doctor and Other Tales of Terror and Mystery (George H. Doran Co., 1925).

   Admirers of the young Tennessee Williams’ Weird Tales story, “The Vengeance of Nitocris” will find much to appreciate in Arthur Conan Doyle’s conte cruel, “The New Catacomb.” Much as in the former story, it won’t take long for a discerning reader to figure out how the story is likely going to end. Doyle’s punchy, if not overly imaginative, non-supernatural horror story, is a tale in which the quest for archaeological knowledge, a love triangle, and a man’s quest for revenge all play prominent roles and can only really lead to one particular horrifying conclusion.

   The story unfolds in an apartment in Rome in which two students, Kennedy (an Englishman) and Burger (of mixed German and Italian parentage), are discussing their love for archaeology. Kennedy soon discovers that Burger has uncovered a hitherto unexplored ancient catacomb and is eager to learn all about it.

   His zeal for knowledge, however, comes at a price. Burger insists that Kennedy disclose to him the details of a sordid relationship the Englishman had with one Miss Mary Saunderson.

   Why does Burger want to know these scandalous details of Kennedy’s love life and what’s the relationship between this aching desire to know and Burger’s archaeological find? As it turns out, all questions will be answered in the dark recesses of a Roman catacomb, a territory in which both Kennedy and Burger will enter together, but from which only one will return to the surface above.