A Perfect Ghost Story

The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill

Two complete books in one day!  That’s definitely a record for me.  In addition to the previous review, I also completed the aforementioned book today.  However, the only similarity these two books contain is their exceptional ability to hold the reader’s attention.  Hill’s book is first and foremost a ghost story.  It is the tale of a painting, passed down among disparate peoples, and its ability to trasform the lives of its possessors for the worse.  The story begins with Oliver, an academic on holiday visiting a former professor, Dr. Theo Parmitter.  As a cold and dreary night winds down, the professor details the beginning of the frightening story of the painting to his former pupil.  A painting is bought from an auction; a painting that was formerly owned by a Countess.  The Countess came across the painting as a wedding “gift” from the jilted former lover of the newly-minted Count.  Each possessor of the painting inevitably finds himself killed in the same fashion, separated from his partner at a reveille-filled festival in Venice.

This ghost story reads addictively.  I read this short book in one sitting while outside on the balcony with a drink and Owen.  Part of what makes this story so perfectly readable is Hill’s narrative style.  Hill varies the narrative with passages from Oliver, Theo, the Countess and finally Anne, Oliver’s new wife.  The narrative variety only adds to the already engaging–and scary–storyline.

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