The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill

The Mist in the Mirror

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Susan Hill has written a chilling and spine-tingling ghost story set in Victorian London. Vivid descriptions of moonlit moors, ancient stone churches, haunted country manors, and gloomy weather add to the atmospheric creepiness of the story.

The Mist in the Mirror opens with an unnamed narrator engaging in conversation with Sir James Monmouth at a gentlemen’s club in London. This encounter leads to Sir James entrusting the narrator with a manuscript about his life. The narrator retires to his lodgings and reads Sir James’ story. The book ends with a postscript that focuses on the narrator and has an unexpected twist.

The story of Sir James Monmouth begins with his arrival in London after having lived in various countries around the world. James is orphaned at the age of five and sent abroad from England to live with his guardian in Africa. During his childhood, James reads numerous books in his guardian’s library about the deceased pioneering traveler Conrad Vane. He becomes fascinated with Vane and plans on emulating him by living a nomadic lifestyle as an adult.

When James is seventeen, his guardian dies unexpectedly. James spends the next twenty years traversing the same paths of exploration as Vane in India, Africa, and the Far East. After James contracts a debilitating illness, he makes the decision to return to England. He is drawn there not only because it is his birthplace, but also because Vane is a native Englishman.

From the moment James steps off the ship in London, he feels utterly alone and needs his life to have a purpose. So he makes the decision to conduct research into the personal life of Conrad Vane and write his biography to ensure his pioneering work is never forgotten. James meets with a bookseller to glean information from him about Vane and also meets with the High Master of the public school Vane attended. Both of the men use innuendos to warn James against the perils of continuing his research. This only piques James’ curiosity.

Mysterious sightings of a ghostlike boy, strange visions and voices, bizarre objects and events all contribute to James questioning his sanity but do not deter him in his quest. Faint and elusive memories of James’ early life in England begin to plague him. Tension and unease builds as the story progresses culminating in a final horrifying encounter between the past and the present.

Click Here to Purchase The Mist in the Mirror (Vintage Original)

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