Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: The Woman in Black

Rarely have I read something as subtly frightening as The Woman in Black.

This relatively young ghost story, published in 1983 by Susan Hill, is insidious.

The book opens on Christmas Eve, as Arthur Kripps refuses to participate in the telling of scary tales with his wife and her children. He is a well-loved and good humored stepfather, but the tales push him over an edge no one, not even he, knew was there.

You see, his ghost story is true.

Arthur is a solicitor whose employer has assigned him to execute the estate of Alice Drablow, who lives in a small coastal town a day's journey from London. He leaves behind his young fiancée and expects to spend a day, maybe two, straightening out the late woman's affairs.

It begins with Mrs. Drablow's funeral, during which he sees a woman in black — someone who goes undetected by the only other person at the funeral, a fellow solicitor whose firm refuses all business from the town's wealthiest resident.  In fact, everyone in town seems very friendly — until it comes to Mrs. Drablow's business or the woman in black, then they go mum or change the subject.

Then things get weird.

This classic story is masterfully told, with suspense and fear building with every page. The ending — oh, my stars, I never saw it coming. Neither will you.

Read this book — but don't do it alone, or after dark, or when you're apt to see shadows where there are none. It's that scary. Really.

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