“The Mist in the Mirror” by Susan Hill (Vintage Original, 224 pages, in stores)
Susan Hill’s “The Mist in the Mirror” is a haunting, classically-inspired ghost story.
Sir James Monmouth is an Englishman who has traveled the globe, following the footsteps of his hero, the great traveler Conrad Vane. After twenty years of traveling, he returns to England for the first time since childhood, with the goal of writing a biography of Vane. But every time he attempts to find information on Vane, he is warned off.
Monmouth left London when he was five years old and orphaned, and lived with a guardian in India, Africa, and China. He knows nothing about his parents, or about England, but nevertheless, he feels he has come home. He is determined to belong in England and to complete his goal of writing Vane’s biography.
Monmouth feels a presence following him at night and sees the apparition of a boy, wretched and crying, looking at him with blame. He tries to shake off these feelings, but they keep coming back. He has visions where he parts a curtain made of beads and sees an old Gypsy woman. It’s terrifying, and he realizes it’s probably a memory.
The whole story takes place in a dreary winter setting. The only comfort Monmouth finds in an uncaring world is an elegant country mansion or a gentlemen’s club in Pall Mall. The dark atmosphere creates the setting for a ghostly tale.
He hears of a woman with the name of Monmouth living at Kittiscar in Yorkshire. He eventually goes there and finds a past that includes Conrad Vane.
It is a good mystery that kept my interest until the end. The more Monmouth learns about Conrad Vane, the more frightening he becomes, even though he’s dead. The author keeps us guessing about Vane’s connection to Monmouth, and I was glad to reach the end of the story to find out. But the author left several things unanswered. Who was the gypsy lady behind the beaded curtain? What happened to Monmouth’s parents? The final scene has the potential to be terrifying, but instead it was a disappointment.
Betty Lytle, for The Oklahoman