The problem with a self imposed book buying ban is that you forget that some of your favourite authors might have books coming out. Imagine how my initial excitement about ‘The Small Hand’ being Susan Hill’s latest ghost story and coming out this autumn (the perfect time for ghost stories) and then the frustration of knowing I would be unable to get my mitts on it. Imagine then my puzzlement when I received an email from the Book Depository thanking me for having ordered it! Was this some ghostly small hand of fraud at work? No, it was The Converted One who had put my email address as a contact when secretly ordering this treat.
Adam Snow, an antiquarian book dealer, narrates the tales of his dealings in ‘The Small Hand’ after one night journeying back from a client he decides to take the back quieter routes ‘through the Downs’ on his commute back to London only to discover himself completely lost. Eventually he happens upon a drive way and a sign saying ‘garden closed’ and knowing there must be some kind of large house he decides this would be the best place to find directions. The house he discovers however is in a mild state of dereliction yet it seems he is not alone for as he turns back to the car a small hand takes hold of his only no one is with him.
After his first bemusement to what takes place and dismissal as his imagination due to the atmosphere things start to take a turn for the more sinister when Adam starts to become gripped by fear for no apparent reason. Initially thinking this must be some kind of series of panic attacks he becomes more concerned when on a trip abroad he starts to see things and a presence seems to be dragging him closer and closer to danger when ever it can find opportunity. I shall leave it there because if I give any more away I would say too much and part of the joy of this book, and the chilling factors too, is the fact that things happen when you aren’t expecting them too and there is an interesting back story and good few twists that all add to the experience it wouldn’t do to ruin.
You might have guessed that I did really enjoy this book. I curled up with it on a Saturday evening when it had gone dark and I had the house all to myself. I can report that it had the desired effect too as the random house noises I don’t normally notice started to make me jump. I think it’s in part the fact the story is in first person and so you read on as if it is happening to you. In the main I think it’s all down to Susan Hill’s writing and the atmosphere she subtly builds as the story goes on. Its not a book that scares you like a sudden ’BOO’ would, its one that initially chills and then builds and builds on that. I also loved that in making Adam Snow an antiquarian book dealer books feature heavily and for a book lover that’s an additional bonus.
A book that will: make the perfect companion for a dark autumnal night, especially if you are all alone. 9/10
Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners;
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill – This to me is still my favourite of Susan Hill’s ghostly tales and one of my all time favourite ghostly tales and books in general.
The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins – I can’t quite believe I missed this out when I was talking of great ghost stories the other day. This is a brilliant dark Victorian ghost story with some wonderful characters and a brilliant villainess.
In fact if Susan Hill ever reads this could I please request that the next ghost story or the one after that is a Victorian tale with a truly wicked villainess set in foggy London? Ha, ha, can you imagine it? It would be amazing! So which of Susan Hill’s ghostly tales have you read? Has anyone read ‘The Mist in the Mirror’ it’s the only one I haven’t gotten around to yet, though will now have to savour it. Which other ghostly tales do you love? Anthology recommendations would be wonderful to find out about – hint, hint!