Thursday, September 5, 2013

"I want to hold your hand . . ."

If you're familiar with British author Susan Hill, then you know that she writes the Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler mystery series. She's also written numerous stand-alone novels and novellas, among them being several superb ghost stories. I love Susan Hill's ghost stories. I've written about one already in this very blog--The Woman in Black--and now I'm going to tell you about another: The Small Hand. It features an antiquarian book seller by the name of Adam Snow who, lost, happens upon an abandoned country house (the "White House") and garden one evening. It's a peculiar place made even more interesting by the fact that, while there, Adam feels someone unseen, a child, take his hand. As Adam learns more about the White House, visits by the spectral owner of this unseen hand grow in frequency and become increasingly more frightening, causing Adam to doubt his own sanity and to fear for his life. This spirit intends to do him harm and he feels powerless to stop it. But why does it wish to hurt him? What connection does it have to the White House? And perhaps even more sinister: what connection does it have to Adam's family, namely his older brother Hugo? At the heart of every good ghost story is an intriguing mystery, and The Small Hand is no exception. Of course, if you've read any of Hill's other ghost stories, you'll already know that things usually don't end well for those involved. The Small Hand is a short read, but boy is it a pleasure, as Hill's prose is so lush and descriptive you'll feel as though you were right beside Adam as his pleasant life falls apart and he's pushed headlong into a nightmare. No, this story probably won't keep you awake at night, but when you reach the end of it, you just might say, "Now that was well done."   

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