Over my past year in the blogging world, one author's name has come up over and over as a community favorite -- Susan Hill. So I have been looking for used copies of her books for months and strangely (or not) there aren't many out there. I finally found a used copy of her ghost story, The Man in the Picture, at Powell's and read it almost as soon as it arrived.
A past student, Oliver, returns to Cambridge to visit an old professor and friend, Theo Parmitter. Theo is a bit out of sorts and decides to confess a story from his youth to Oliver. He asks Oliver to first look at an eighteenth-century painting of Venice that is on the wall. Oliver notices that the scene that at first seems frivolous and festive is actually disturbing -- with strange characters in it that almost seem to be looking out of the canvas at him. Then, over two nights, Theo tells the story of how he acquired the painting and what else he has since found out about its history. Of course, this is a far-fetched story that Oliver isn't sure whether to believe -- until he also becomes entangled in the painting's malevolent grasp.
Each R.I.P. Challenge read that I have gotten to has been better than the ones before. This one was a good solid A- story. It has a very similar cadence and phrasing to many Poe short stories and in fact drops a "House of Usher" reference which I loved. The only thing that kept me from adoring this story was that the plot became a bit predictable and I wasn't shocked or surprised at the end. But I really loved Hill's writing and might even be willing to buy brand-spanking-new copies of her books!
Glad that I only hang photographs in the house,
Support our site and buy The Man in the Picture on Amazon or find it at your local library.