As a big fan of The Woman in Black, Susan Hill’s iconic ghost story from 1983, I was instantly drawn to this new collection of four short ghost stories by the same author, and fully expected to love them, however, I didn’t. Before I go on, here is a little synopsis of each, with their opening sentence:
The Travelling Bag
“Tell me, what would you sat has been your most – shall we say ‘intriguing’ case, Gilbert?”
The title story sees a psychic private investigator recounting the tale of the mysterious death of a renowned doctor. Through a vision he sees what really happened to Dr. Silas Webb and his death was not as straight forward as everyone seemed to think.
Boy Number Twenty-One
“A seventeenth-century stately home has been left a shell after devastating fire yesterday.”
Tony and Andreas become firm friends at boarding school, until one day Andreas disappears. Years later, the destruction of a stately home triggers memories for Tony, who suffered greatly due to what happened at the boarding school.
“Promises have been made for years that we would not have to put up with our cramped, dingy old offices for much longer but would be moving to new ones ‘any day’.”
Alice Baker starts a new office job and her colleagues sense there is something odd about her – from her unwillingness to join in to the strange smell of decay that surrounds her. When the team move to a new office block, they discover the strange truth about Alice.
The Front Room
“They blamed one another for what happened but in fact it all began with Pastor Lewis’s address.”
The Irwin family decide to be charitable and take in an old family member to live out her last years in, what they hope will be, comfort. She is ungrateful and bitter and upon her inevitable death, haunts the family with very sinister consequences.
Every time I finished each of these four short stories, I was left with a disappointed feeling. It all felt a little ghost-story-by numbers and, crucially, not one of the tales gave me even a tiny sense of foreboding or chill up my spine. They are well written, classic ghost stories but I think my expectation level was so high that they just didn’t quite do it for me. On the plus side, the book does have a beautiful jacket cover.