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Book reviews: The Woman in Black | An Exclusive Love | Before I Go To Sleep

William Leith gives his verdict on the latest paperback releases

THE WOMAN IN BLACK

by Susan Hill

Rating: ***

(Vintage, £6.99)

It’s Christmas Eve, and Arthur Kipps, sitting at his fireside, is asked by his stepchildren if he knows any ghost stories. He does. But he doesn’t want to talk about it. Instead, he decides to write the story that he experienced as a young man. He was a solicitor’s clerk. He went to the funeral of an old lady who had lived in a creepy old house. The house, called Eel Marsh House, was joined to the mainland by a causeway. At the funeral he saw something terrifying – a spectral woman wearing a black robe. A ghost. Bad things had happened at Eel Marsh house; bad things were about to happen again. Reliably creepy – reissued as a film tie-in.

AN EXCLUSIVE LOVE

by Johanna Adorjan

Rating: ****

(Vintage, £7.99))

“On 13 October 1991,” the author tells us, “my grandparents killed themselves.” That got my attention. The two old people, István and Vera, were Hungarian. István had survived Mauthausen, the concentration camp; Vera had thought she would never see him again. After that war, István, a doctor, served as a surgeon in the Korean war, on the north Korean side. then the Russians invaded Budapest, where they lived. so they fled to Denmark. Years later, when István became ill, they lay down next to each other, in bed, held hands, and swallowed poison. Very intense; very moving.

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP

by SJ Watson

Rating: ****

(Black Swan, £7.99)

Christine wakes up. She doesn’t know where she is. she recognises neither the bedroom she’s in, nor the middle-aged man she’s lying next to. What has happened? When she goes into the bathroom, she gets a terrible shock — she’s aged 20 years! Maybe more! And her hands are wrinkled. The middleaged man tells her not to worry. He’s her husband, and she suffers from a certain type of amnesia. During the day, she pieces her life together. At night, she forgets. So who is Ben? Is he really a doctor? In that case, why is he being so secretive? This is strange, and very well executed. You’ll whizz through.

 

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