A friend posted the trailer for the upcoming Daniel Radcliffe movie based on on this book, and, seeing that it involved horror, a vaguely Victorianish looking guy, and a deserted mansion, I was ordering the book as soon as I could navigate to Amazon.
It’s a short read and oddly enough, categorized as Young Adult, which really made no sense. The protagonist is an adult male, and the prose is medium sophisticated in a clear attempt to mimic the style of early 20th century/late 19th century writers. The only reason I could see for filing it under YA was the inclusion of some very simple pencil drawings at the beginning of each chapter.
The protagonist, Arthur Kipps, has been sent to the funeral of Alice Drablow, one of his law firm’s clients. Mrs. Drablow lived, promisingly enough, as a recluse in a deserted old house in a foggy English town, on a marsh accessible only at low tide. Arthur must spend time navigating the large, empty, dark house, sorting through bundles of paper to see that the estate is properly disposed of. He sees the woman in black at Mrs. Drablow’s funeral, and feels compelled to uncover her secrets despite the malevolent energy she puts out, her wasted appearance, the eerie sounds he hears in the fog, and the fact that no one in the town will speak to him about the house or the woman.
The Woman in Black is a very good ghost story, slightly reminiscent of The Turn of The Screw, only more accessible and less eerie and insinuating. It doesn’t introduce anything very new, but the prose is refreshingly intelligent and the building of suspense is well-done. Hill builds the mystery slowly, but without introducing unnecessary or tedious plot elements. It is spare and affecting. I wasn’t chilled at all, but I was thinking about the story for some time after I’d closed the book, which gives a book some degree of merit in my opinion.