Published in 2007 by Profile Books
This book was lent to my while on holiday.
The story was told to me by my old tutor, Theo Parmitter, as we sat beside the fire in his college rooms one bitterly cold January night. There were still real fires in those days the coals brought up by the servant in huge brass scuttles.
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.
I can't deny that Susan Hill really knows how to write a ghost story. This book was bristling with spine tingling atmosphere and tension. You find yourself wishing you could read it while curled up on a sofa, dim light flickering in the back ground, half listening to the lashing rain against your window. It probably wasn't the best book to read in really hot temperatures beside the pool, but I did find myself instantly transported.
However while reading this book, I couldn't help but feel the author was cashing in on a tried and tested formula that had worked so well for her with her previous novel 'The Woman in Black'. I couldn't help but feel I knew the way the story was going. Though on reaching the end, the author pulled the rabbit out of the hat as I sat dumbfounded by the turn of events that occurred. I really wasn't expecting it to end the way it did, so in spite of my feelings of deja vu to begin with, the author regained her ghostly superiority in my eyes. It felt like a new twist to Oscar Wilde's novel - A Picture of Dorian Grey.
Sometimes it is very easy to imagine that Susan Hill is an author from another era. She can conjure up tales similar to the elite classics of the past with such ease, I am convinced she has stepped back into the past. Her stories are often short and to the point, making you aware that she hasn't wasted a single word; each carefully thought out in order to create a chilling tale.
This book can easily be read in one setting, but enter at your own peril. Be prepared to leave the last page with a chill down your spine and a quick peek over your shoulders, just to make sure you are alone!