Printer's Devil Court by Susan Hill
|Printer's Devil Court by Susan Hill
|Reviewer: Rachael Spencer
|Summary: A group of medical students start to experiment in a disused mortuary in London, pushing the boundaries between life and death with little regard for the consequences. Susan Hill is on top form in this unsettling, gripping short read which I would definitely recommend.
|Date: September 2014
|Publisher: Profile Books
Susan Hill is by far the master of the old fashioned ghost story. If you've ever read or seen The Woman in Black, then you’ll already know that, but her other ghost stories are a little less famous. That doesn't make them any less good, and I for one am a big fan. I think there’s a lot to be said for a good old fashioned scare, with apparitions, goosebumps and cold chills up the spine. I always feel like I should be reading these books around a campfire, wrapped in a blanket and eating marshmallows because it very much reminds me of sharing ghost stories with my friends when I was a child. What I like to call a ‘proper scare’.
This book starts in a satisfyingly mysterious way, with a parcel containing a book entitled The Wrong Life arriving at the door of someone the reader doesn't know. We are thrust into the manuscript pretty much blind, as the terrifying tale unfolds. The suspense begins almost immediately, and only ratchets higher and higher as the story continues. This is one of the reasons I enjoy Hill’s paranormal tales so much; they are always short. There aren't pages and pages of in depth descriptions or over the top gore, it is simply a Victorian story aimed purely at a good, lingering scare. Her ability to build the tension and afford the reader proper jumps is second to none, and I think this is a difficult skill to achieve, especially to be successful at it within a fast paced, modern publishing industry.
Everything about this book is satisfying, even down to the pocket size of it, the thick, good quality paper and embossed dust jacket. It makes it feel as though rather than buying a new book, you've found it in the back of a dusty old library stack somewhere.
Often Hill’s books begin with normal people doing normal things and being dragged unwillingly into a ghost’s plight. This story, however, begins almost instantly within the realms of a Frankenstein-esque experiment between some medical students, which gives it an excellent backdrop to work from, almost making the author's job easy in terms of creating the scare factor for the reader. That being said, I take my hat off to her. It is difficult to write in such a way that one can get completely caught up in the horror even in broad daylight whilst sitting on a train, or in the passenger seat of a car, but she manages it effortlessly. This leads me to wonder if Hill’s real passion is the ghosts, but it’s the detectives which earn her a living (she is also a well respected author within the detective genre, and rightly so) because I can’t help but feel paranormal fiction is something you’re drawn to, more than just deciding to write on a whim.
Overall, this is yet another triumph for the author who is, in my eyes, the undisputed queen of the horror fiction genre, reminding us that it doesn't have to be about modern day slasher stories. Sit yourself around the campfire with your friends to read this aloud and you’re going to be screaming no matter how brave you think you are.
If it's good old scares you're looking for, then you could do worse than trying Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories by Cecily Gayford (editor).
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