Two previously published stories, The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill, are collected here by Vintage Books into one volume. Both are similar in theme.
In The Small Hand, Adam gets lost while driving in the English countryside and finds himself in the forgotten garden of the abandoned White House. While standing in the front yard staring at the house, he feels a tiny invisible hand grasp his. (Screeeeeaaaam!) He's weirded out but not too disturbed by the sensation. However, after he goes on with his life, he feels the small hand again only with sinister connotations. He tries to find out more about the house and the garden. As he looks for answers, he uncovers a secret with devastating consequences.
Dolly involves two cousins, the spoiled Leonora and docile Edward, who spend one summer with their Aunt Kestrel in Iyot House. Edward hears a strange whispering and crying at night. When his bratty cousin arrives with her demands, their aunt tries to appease her by buying her a doll. How she treats the doll will have consequences for the two cousins.
As I said, the stories have some similarities. Both involve a creepy old house in the country, the protagonists are men who travel for work, and both are affected by something that's happened in their childhoods. The Small Hand is a story with a solid conclusion. There's foreshadowing pushing the reader towards the end. Everything gets tidied up real nice.
Dolly is a different situation. The ending isn't so clean. Is Leonora the cause of the terrible events as Edward believes? I don't think so. Leonora is awful, it's true. She makes even the worst kid look like an angel in comparison, but as bad as she is, I think she's as much of a victim as Edward. Right from the start, Edward hears the strange sounds in the attic. The evil in the house is already there. The doll is just a vehicle for it. Why it attaches itself to the two children is a mystery. Sometimes evil has no explanation and this is one of those times.
If you enjoy typical ghost stories with tidy endings, The Small Hand will please you. If, like me, you like ambiguous endings that leave you saying hmmm, Dolly will be more to your tastes.