Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill

In The Small Hand and Dolly, Susan Hill returns to the suspense/horror genre that has been successful for her in the past, with books such as The Woman In Black and Irish Twins.  This is actually a set of two novellas, each of which is guaranteed to set the reader's backbone on edge.

In The Small Hand, a businessman is early for an appointment and lost in the English countryside.  He finds a magnificent house in the country, obviously deserted and falling to ruin.  Curious, he strolls through the grounds and near one of the reflecting ponds, it happens.  He feels a small hand creep into his but there is no one visible.  Unimaginative, he is surer than anything that this has truly occurred and he leaves the site, thinking to lose the sensation.  But the hand is not so easily deterred.

In Dolly, two cousins, children of feuding sisters, are sent to spend the summer with an older aunt.  None of the individuals have ever met the others.  Edward is a solid little boy, prone to think that things tend to work themselves out for the best and very polite.  Leonora is like her mercurial mother, beautiful, spoiled with a vicious temper.  Both children are eight and being shipped to the country to spend the summer in a remote house with an aunt one has never met is hardly a child's dream of a perfect summer.  Edward makes the best of it, exploring the grounds, working puzzles and reading.  Leonora is furious to be there and makes sure everyone knows it.  She has set her desire on a particular doll, and when the aunt gives her a doll that is a different one, she throws a tantrum that is shocking to everyone.  Her mother soon changes her mind and retrieves Leonora and the tantrum is forgotten with her departure.  Or is it?

Susan Hill has the ability to write brooding, haunting stories that remain with the reader long after the back cover is closed.  She doesn't use the in-your-face technique often found in horror stories.  Instead, she writes of misty tendrils that take hold in the mind, slowing conquering that territory until the mind is consumed with horror.  This book is recommended for suspense readers.

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