I gave this story 4.5 stars. However I had to round it up on Goodreads to 5 stars.
So I don't know if I am rating this favorable because the last two books I finished made me want to scream and kick something or not. For the most part I loved the story until we got to the subpar ending which didn't do much for me. And when we do get to the ending of the tale, the story just comes to a flat stop which made me think I was missing some pages from the book.
Told in the first person, readers "meet" Arthur Kipps. We find that Arthur is an older man and is enjoying having his stepchildren home for Christmas. For some reason though Arthur feels unsettled. Eventually returning to his family there is a call for ghost stories which infuriates Arthur and he takes himself outside. He decides to write down a "real" ghost story for his wife in order to finally unburden himself. We then flash back to when Arthur was a young solicitor working in London when he was dispatched to deal with Mrs. Alice Drablow's estate. Attending the funeral, Arthur notices a woman in black. And unfortunately for Arthur, she notices him too.
I thought that Arthur was a good protagonist for this story. I felt myself sympathetic and also afraid for him throughout the story. What gets you is that though Arthur sees the things that he does and feels them too, he still wants to figure out a way to logically explain it and/or end it.
There are several other people in this story and Hill doesn't focus too much on them besides how Arthur perceives them until we get almost to the end and we have Arthur making a life long friend with one of the town inhabitants, Samuel Daily.
I thought the writing was tone perfect. Hill manages to describe things to such a great extent that you feel like you are right there. The first chapter in the book I really enjoyed because it really did make me think I was somewhere in a large country house in England smelling the winter air and looking at the moon and stars. When Arthur travels to Crythin Gifford it feels ominous and threatening based on what Arthur tells us people's reactions are to him. What is sad is how pulled to Alice Drablow's home (Eel Marsh House) he felt and how initially he was charmed by the house and thought how wonderful it would be to live there. What is funny is that as a reader, based on the description I would have gotten the heck out of there. Pronto.
The flow of the story really does work up until almost the end. Then the story comes apart a bit and the flow never really improves after that. I think that we just had a ridiculous missing time segment that didn't make a whole lot of sense and all of a sudden Arthur changes from wanting to figure out the woman in black, to deciding the heck with it.
I loved the settings of Crythin Gifford and Eel Marsh House. Eel Marsh House especially had me shuddering slightly based on how Hill describes it and how foolish we know that Arthur is for staying on though anyone with any sense would have high tailed it out of there.
The ending though like I said earlier was a disappointment. There didn't seem to be enough evil there for the woman in black. I liked everything up until the final reveal and I said to myself really? It just was missing that last little bit of oomph. I don't need every book to read like a Stephen King novel. But I was a disappointed with who was the woman in black and what led her to her current state.