Susan Hill wrote one of my favourite ‘ghost stories’ and in fact one of my favourite novels The Woman in Black a book that I recommend to anyone and everyone. So after quite a while since her last ghost story Mist in the Mirror now here is The Man in the Picture and I read it in one go, I simply devoured the whole thing. I did wait until it was dark and the curtains were drawn just to get the perfect atmosphere. You can’t read a ghost story in daylight or on the tube, it doesn’t work.
The tale is told on a winters night before the fire (a perfect time and place to read this book if you can) Theo a Cambridge don, is telling his former student Oliver the strange history of the picture that he has on his wall. What may appear to be a beautiful Venetian scene of partying and masks in the street has much deeper secrets and scares in its frame. Poor Oliver is unaware that having been told the tale it will change everything for him and soon the painting will be taking its effect on his own life. This painting is no ordinary painting for it has the power not only to imitate life but also to take it, forever. And the reason it does this? Well without giving anything away its revenge, simple bitter revenge. Revenge for what or whom you will have to read to find out.
Susan Hill is a superb writer who can turn her hand to anything; her crime novels are wonderful, it is however her ghost stories that I love the most. The way she sets the scene so simplistically and builds the tension so easily before you know it your spine is tingling and the hairs on your back and neck are rising. They have that gothic or Victorian feel to them that harks back to the classic era of ghost telling. Sadly I didn’t have a fire as I would have given anything for the sound and warmth of wood crackling while I was turning the pages and getting the chills.