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re­leased OUt NOW! 183 pages | Hard­back/ebook Au­thor su­san Hill Pub­lisher Pro­file books

In the mood for some old-fash­ioned ghost sto­ries, the sort best en­joyed in front of a roar­ing fire on a cold win­ter’s night, per­haps with a large glass of brandy in one hand? Then The Woman In Black au­thor Su­san Hill’s lat­est col­lec­tion might be, ahem, just your bag.

That’s par­tic­u­larly true of the tit­u­lar tale, what with its Vic­to­rian gen­tle­men’s club set­ting and fustily phrased fram­ing. Con­cern­ing a venge­ful prank gone wrong, there’s some­thing charm­ingly fo­gey­ish about it, though the cen­tral premise makes pre­cious lit­tle sense.

Haunt­ing tale “Boy Num­ber Twenty-One” moves in the same so­cial sphere – a board­ing school, a stately home – and evokes a sim­i­lar sen­sa­tion of mild dis­quiet. Best of the bunch is “Alice Baker”, which draws on that mod­ern-day sit­u­a­tion of the temp you never quite get to know. Both this and step­moth­er­from-hell story “The Fi­nal Room” rely on strange smells and an in­de­fin­able sense that some­thing is some­how off. The re­sult is an un­showy col­lec­tion that, though un­likely to leave you fear­fully pulling your bed­clothes up un­der your chin, clammy with fear, has a nice line in qui­etly un­der­stated un­canny. Ian Berri­man

“Num­ber Twenty-One” was in­spired by a teacher who went up the Eif­fel Tower with 22 boys, and came down with 23…

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