Susan Hill wrote the book on which the West End's most successful ghost story, The Woman in Black
, is based, and with the genre apparently in resurgence I thought I'd see what her latest novella was like. The Small Hand
follows Adam, a dealer in antique books, who when lost in the countryside goes into a derelict garden and has the sensation of an invisible child's hand holding onto his. From then on the ghost attaches itself to him, initially seeming like a benevolent presence but then increasingly trying to harm him. It's very much a classic-style ghost story, that despite being set in the present day has a distinctly Edwardian feel to it (there's references to phones and email, but the narrator seems utterly resistant to using them, preferring letters, postcards and lengthy visits to conduct even the smallest business deal.) There's a very chilling moment when the supernatural threat becomes even more personal than it first appeared, although I was a bit underwhelmed by how this was resolved; and the story includes a visit to a remote French monastery, whose potential for atmospheric scares I never thought was fully taken advantage of. But apart from that the book's a satisfying addition to the spooky genre.