During the holidays, Arthur Kipps finally sits down to write about an experience that's haunted him since it happened many, many years ago. Back when he was a shiny-eyed young lawyer out to prove himself, he was given an assignment that sent him off to the far corners of England: to attend a client's funeral and then go to her house to find her important papers. Right away he gets the feeling things are a bit off. The client is, as his boss puts it, a rum'un. Still Arthur heads off confident he can get things together and be back right quick.
When Arthur arrives, he gets the cold shoulder from the locals. In fact, they act as if he might give them leprosy. Even village lawyer is jumpy. Then there's the house. Eel Marsh House. It's a very fine house but it's in the middle of a marsh and can only be accessed when the tide is out. Once it's in, you're stuck there. No. Way. Out. Sounds inviting.
Arthur has someone take him to the house to do his business and that's when the bad things start to happen.
I don't want to give too much away since The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is less than 200 pages and there are creepy surprises. Hill did an excellent job building both atmosphere and suspense. The reader and Arthur have no idea what is going on. He knows that what he is experiencing is real and that others have experienced it too but no one will talk about it. The people he tries to talk to give him looks of both fear and pity. He doesn't know why and the reader is dying to know too!
The Woman in Black has the feel of a Victorian novel but from what I pieced together it must be set in the mid-20th century (there are cars, electricity, and a headstone reads 190-). It has that odd quality that it could be any time period. The town is so isolated and the means of getting to the house old-fashioned. The atmosphere is bone chilling. There are impenetrable fogs, known as frets, that envelope the house that make it impossible to leave even if the tide is low. I wish it had been foggy when I read this. It would have been perfect! Even without the fog, I was creeped out. There were moments where the book could have used some time in the freezer.
And the end....whew!.... all I can say is you do not want to see the woman in black.