The blurb: In the apartment of Oliver’s old professor at Cambridge, there is a painting on the wall, a mysterious depiction of masked revelers at the Venice carnival. On this cold winter’s night, the old professor has decided to reveal the painting’s eerie secret. The dark art of the Venetian scene, instead of imitating life, has the power to entrap it. To stare into the painting is to play dangerously with the unseen demons it hides, and become the victim of its macabre beauty.
By the renowned storyteller Susan Hill–whose first ghost story, The Woman in Black, has run for eighteen years as a play in London’s West End–here is a new take on a form that is fully classical and, in Hill’s able hands, newly vital. The Man in the Picture is a haunting tale of loss, love, and the very basest fear of our beings.
My review: Well no one does Victoria-style chilling horror like Susan Hill. I bought this and Dolly – review on the way – to read on a two hour train journey from snowy York back to London and it suited the atmosphere.
This novella has the one trait I praise above all others in a horror novel (and my reading isn’t extensive) and that’s subtlety. No direct references to rotting corpses or headless zombies are required, a well paced narrative and mere suggestion should be enough to let even the laziest imaginations run wild. The hint of the unjust, the tell-tale signs of mysterious goings on, noises in the night, disappearances of loved ones and a coincidence too many make this an excellent example of the genre.
This was a brilliant quick read if you want to give yourself a fright. The ability of the narrator to at once confirm your worst suspicions whilst acknowledging how hard his story will be to believe is balanced just right. The pace is steady, everything is explained and taken one step at a time which makes the horror so much more genuine. A fantastic example of where your imagination can take you.
7.5 out of 10 stars! *******.5