Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill

I'm pretty sure most people out there have heard of Susan Hill. If not, then you would have definitely heard of her most famous work, The Woman in Black. The hugely popular ghost story featuring a foreboding figure that haunts a small village and its inhabitants has been adapted into a smash west end play and a successful film. It was my love of this book that led me to find more of Hills' work and that is how I came across The Mist in the Mirror, her second ghost story. I had high hopes as I settled down to read it but did it hold up to her previous work?

The story focuses on a man named James Monmouth, sorry, that's Sir James Monmouth, who has been travelling all his life and has finally returned to England to settle down. After the death of his parents, he was raised in South Africa by his guardian and has visited many exotic locations, which are only lightly touched upon in the main bulk of the text. On his return to England, James feels very much at home but it isn't long before he starts to hear and see some strange things...

The books set up is very simple. It's basically the same as The Woman in Black - old man tells a young man a ghost story by a roaring fire - but I like that. It's written in a very traditional gothic horror style that works well with the Victorian setting. Hill brings this old world to life in rich, descriptive detail, creating such a strong and creepy atmosphere that you can't help but feel a little on edge. The plot develops as Sir Monmouth attempts to find as much information as possible about the man whose life he's been tracking around the world, the great and mysterious traveller Conrad Vane, only to be greeted with warnings of danger and dark secrets that should be left unknown. The first half of the book is wonderfully spine chilling, as the character, story and setting build up a sense of dread of what's to come but the ending is somewhat of an anti climax and I felt a lot of questions were left unanswered.

The Mist in the Mirror is beautifully written; its brilliant tone and atmosphere create a thrilling suspense that drives a story in which not really a lot actually happens, but I still liked it. I love how much impact the English weather can have; the smoky fog of the London Thames at night and the gloomy rain of an English village are perfect locations for ghost sightings. The Mist in the Mirror may be flawed but it is still worth a read.

No comments:

Post a Comment