3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Goosebumps on goosebumps..,
This review is from: The Mist In The Mirror (Paperback)
It's hard for an author to match a perfect ghost story like The Woman in Black but here, Susan Hill again manages to recreate the chilling atmosphere of a subtly woven Gothic tale. Sir James Monmouth returns to England having spent most of his life abroad in exotic climes, following in the footsteps of his hero, the intrepid explorer Conrad Vane. He was orphaned at the age of five and has no recollection of his childhood in England nor any family to fill in the blanks in his history. Keen to settle down in England and have a focus in life, he embarks on research into the life of Conrad Vane with a view to publishing his findings. However, every time he seems to get closer to finding out more about Vane, the man, he is warned off with vague intimations as to the dark, evil side of the man he has idolised. He is haunted by a waif like boy whose melancholy sobs and doleful countenance fill him with great sadness. He sees the frightening apparition of an old woman behind a curtain
I saw the black pits of her eyes with a pin-prick gleam at their centre, and a swarthiness and greasiness about her skin; I saw her hands laid on top of one another, old, scrawny, claw-like hands they seemed to me; and the flash from a spark from jewelled or enamelled ring.
Susan Hill excells at the slow-build up of tension and terror which gives the reader goosebumps on their goosebumps. The atmosphere is wonderfully gothic from the opening description of dreary, rainswept Victorian London to the sinister, shaded cloisters of a public school to the windswept moors of the North complete with abandoned villages and a dilapidated country house. In just 180 pages you are taken on a rollercoaster journey with ever-increasing thrills and twists.
What disappointed me a little was the ending which fails to tie up loose endings and explain elements like the woman behind the curtain and the mysterious mirrors but I guess that uncertainty goes hand in hand with the nature of ghosts and the unexplained. This is an ideal story for those dark Autumnal nights as we approach Halloween and would be an excellent accompaniment to the ghost stories of M R James. If you haven't read this or The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, haste ye to the bookshop/library.