The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story, by Susan Hill

This classically-styled ghost story was first published in October, 2011, and has now been made into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Solicitor Arthur Kipps is enjoying an evening at home with his new wife and stepchildren when one of them decides to share ghost stories. When they come around to Arthur he can’t tell his story, because he’s lived a real ghost story that still terrifies him.

Arthur then writes out his tale with true gothic flavor. During his first marriage he was given an assignment by his law firm. He was to travel to a small coastal village called Crythin Gifford. There he’s to settle the estate of an old client of the firm named Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh.

He arrives in the village in time for Drablow’s sparsely attended funeral. While at the graveside he mentions to the local man helping him with the estate work that he saw a woman in black in the cemetery. The local reacts with shock and refuses to tell him any more about the deceased or the woman in black, and none of the other locals offer much information.

He decides to stay in the house at Eel Marsh for a night that will influence his life all the way back to London.

The book has the atmosphere of a book by Brontë or Wilkie Collins, and the same relentless pacing of a Poe story. Something has happened to Arthur’s life that the locals have seen before, but there’s no use getting into details until he’s finished sorting through the dead woman’s papers and headed back home.

Susan Hill knows that with the greatest books of his type the horror is as much about what is kept from view as the things that are described. She’s built an old-fashioned classic with all the gingerbread and stained glass. A fun, brief book and a great one to read aloud.