Curling up on a rainy evening with a classic English ghost story is a well loved past time, and Susan Hill has been known as one of the best of the genre. Her story The Woman In Black has been adapted for theatres in one of London’s longest running plays, and also as a film. The Mist In the Mirror is one of her other very well known and loved books.
It’s the story of James Monmouth, raised by a guardian in Africa, and who has traveled the world extensively, following in the footsteps of a travel writer and explorer that he likes called Conrad Vane. When he finds himself in middle age, he decides to explore England as a place to settle down, especially as he was born there. From the moment his feet tough the soil, he starts to have little memories.
He decides to spend some time looking into the life of Conrad Vane, with the idea of writing a biography or book about him, but finds that anyone he questions about Vane tries to change the subject or warns him off. What’s the secret about this mysterious traveler, who has begun to obsess him? Was there a link in their pasts? And who is the ragged little boy he sees following him everywhere?
Like all good ghost stories, it’s at heart a mystery, with small pieces of the puzzle falling into place, and it set and written in the style of the times of those great British ghost story writers like Henry James.
The Mist In the Mirror is not a long read, and compared to horror books, it’s not a scary read. It’s a fireside ghost story. One with more sedate chills, but it moves at a nice pace, and takes time to evoke a time and place beautifully. It’s all family secrets, dark hallways and ancient stone buildings, strange lights in hallways at night. It’s an enjoyable read, though I felt like the ending was slightly anti-climatic somehow. I felt like I needed a little more explorations of it all, more answers. But it did make me think of picking up other Susan Hill titles if I come across them.
Read It If: you want an old fashioned, English ghost story to read by the fire on a rainy night. It’s more spooky than scary, and is well plotted, but won’t give you nightmares.