One of my closest friends is a talented drama teacher. Theatre trips to see the stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s ‘The Woman in Black’ are a regular feature of her curriculum. I remember my friend telling me that on one of these occasions, the woman in the seat next to her had been so utterly terrified by the production, that she had literally – well, peed her pants! I’ve read Susan Hill’s ‘The Woman in Black’ and although reading it did not have such a profound effect on me, it was nevertheless an engrossing, unsettling read. When my book group settled upon another of Ms Hill’s novellas, ‘The Small Hand,’ as its next read, I was looking forward to being similarly spooked.
Told in the first person, the book follows Adam Snow as he tracks down a rare First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s work. On the way to visit his client, Adam chances upon a deserted house, where he first feels a small, invisible hand in his. Resisting the urge to be drawn by the force of the child’s touch, Adam tries to forget the inexplicable sensation. However he begins to be bothered by nightmares, panic attacks and an impending sense of doom. He tries to discuss his dilemma with his brother, Hugo, who dismisses his fears and suggests a trip to the GP. Determined to uncover the truth about the tiny hand, Adam delves into the history of the White House. HIs encounter with its occupant enables him to unravel the mystery, culminating in a final encounter with the mysterious tiny fingers.
Unlike the lady in the theatre, I was not paralysed with fear by this book. That’s probably a good thing, given that I was reading it on my leather sofa! It was an intriguing tale, in so far as the terrors of our Adam’s own mind contrive to bewilder him, but it was not scary. The dark corners of my own mind were not infiltrated by the pull of the small hand. Maybe I am just not easily lead!