Mrs. Drablow has died so her estate must be settled. To that end, junior solicitor Arthur Kipps is dispatched from London to the far northern hamlet of Crythin Gifford to go through the deceased woman’s paper work. Mrs. Drablow resided at Eel Marsh House, a melancholy manor located in fog drenched seclusion inside a marsh that is only reachable during low tide. Shortly after arriving Arthur begins seeing a young woman dressed in black and he, rightly, soon ascertains she is a ghost. Numerous scary events occur but Arthur presses on to finish his duty and along the way perhaps solve the mystery of what haunts Eel Marsh House.
Stalwart hero Arthur Kipps is rather plucky in the face of doom. He sees a ghost, hears things, he believes yet he still stays and is determined to solve the mystery and stop the fearful spirit. I would have just worked as hard as possible to go through all the crap or better yet, hire out a coach to load it all back to my room at the inn to sort through. Arthur doesn’t do this. Instead he tempts fate further by staying in the house and indulging his curiosity by exploring its closed off rooms.
Arthur reminded me a lot of Ichabod Crane in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. At first he doesn’t believe and takes the legends as superstition and folklore. Then he sees inexplicable things, understands they are real, but still pushes forward to solve the mystery. It makes me wonder if Burton’s Ichabod was half based on Arthur in The Woman in Black. The two are very similar.
The book moves quickly and reads like it was written in the early part of the 20th century and not its actual publication time, which was 1983. Hill did a good job mimicking both the prose but also the no nonsense hero archetype of the time. The Woman in Black is undeniably spooky and if you read it late at night be prepared for some unpleasant dreams.
According to Wikipedia, the book is the basis for the second longest running play in England’s history so those of you across the pond already likely know this story. It was also adapted for a movie in 2013 starring Daniel Radcliffe and while the ending was changed it does follow the story of the book well and is suitably creepy.