The Small Hand by Susan Hill
Readers of Susan Hill's earlier works, in particular her modern classic, The Woman In Black, will know that she is a writer of beautifully-crafted ghost stories, full of all the subtleties and sensitive shifts in mood and atmosphere that all good ghost stories should have. The Small Hand doesn't disappoint on that score. As antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow becomes more and more affected by the 'small hand' of an invisible child that grips his as he explores the grounds of a dilapidated country house, the mood shifts gradually and insidiously as the small hand takes his more and more often and begins to reveal a more sinister purpose.
The Small Hand really does have all the ingredients of a classic ghost story. A creepy old manor house, the unlocking of the secrets of the past, a steady building of tension, a truly unsettling scene with echoes of Miss Havisham, and a startling revelatory ending that suggests that maybe, Adam Snow has been closer to true horror all his life than he could ever have realised.
However, for me, the ending - while clever and utterly unexpected - is also the book's weakest point. Its revelation is shocking, but oddly perfunctory, and I wanted just a little more detail to exploit its nature to the full. I wanted just a little bit more from it - and when I say 'a little bit', I mean a little. Three or four lines could have accomplished it. But this is a small gripe; apart from that, The Small Hand was close to being a flawless English story in the tradition of MR James, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.