a truly frightening little book well worth reading, as i did, on a cold winter's night. the fragile narrator of this tale, arthur kipps, is a young solicitor packing up the papers of the recently deceased mrs. drablow, in a remote house on an estuary, surrounded by bleak marshland and the unknown. nobody else will go near the house, so he is accompanied only by the brave dog called spider, who weathers with him the elements, natural and unnatural that assault him, out there, all alone.
this is an atmospheric ghost story, in keeping with the victorian greats of the genre. ghost stories are being told around the fire on christmas eve in the opening section of the book, and kipps inwardly critiques the "lurid" trappings of typical plot in those self-same stories, knowing far better himself what it is to meet with fear, to see how it is dressed, to hear its voice, and to feel it brush pass him on the landing.
i did end up questioning the structure of the piece. i'm not sure it needed the christmas eve section, and i would have appreciated a little less preamble; the set-up is ample enough if the book had started in mr. bentley's office in london. once kipps begins his journey the story takes off, and like jerome, it gripped me by the arm too tightly, making me very uncomfortable, and afraid. i yelled out a couple of times because kipps was making wrong choices "don't do THAT!" and then there is disintegration, and then the end comes: a perfectly abrupt full stop.