Book review: The Small Hand

By Susan Hill
Published by Profile Books

Due to unprecedented amounts of snow and extremely low temperatures, this winter I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve seen a book described as “perfect for a day spent sitting by the fireplace”! I promised to myself that I wouldn’t say that about this book – not only because I think that The Small Hand is perfect for any time of year but also because it makes for a rather chilling read.

The Small Hand opens with Adam Snow, a dealer in antiquarian books, getting lost while driving back from a client’s. While looking for help he finds The White House, whose derelict appearance and overgrown garden are obvious signs of abandon. While standing in front of the house, Adam senses a small hand – the hand of a child – creep into his own. He looks around but there is no-one there. Despite the strangeness of this event, however, Adam is not scared. On the contrary, the hand feels benevolent and in the following months he will often hope to experience that touch again.

He clearly doesn’t know what lies ahead.

His interest in the history of The White House, whose garden once used to be featured in magazines and open to the public, becomes an obsession. Suddenly, while in Oxford to discuss a deal for a client, a sense of fear pervades Adam and, from a benign presence, the small hand becomes a terrible force determined to drag him underwater. Fountains and rivers are no longer safe places for him and this unexpected dark power follows him everywhere, including a secluded French monastery where Adam travels to inspect one of Shakespeare’s First Folio.

Nightmares begin to haunt Adam. Hoping to understand the true intentions of the small hand, he returns to The White House, where he makes a disturbing discovery that will seriously threaten his life and that of the people he loves.

Author of The Woman in Black and The Man in the Picture, Susan Hill has the ability to make you feel completely drawn into the events that unfold on the page thanks to her evocative descriptions and credible characters. She is also very good at letting you believe that you know what is going to happen – enough to feel pleased about your intuition but never enough to be absolutely certain that your guess is right or to spoil the unexpected twists in the plot.

This is one of those ghost stories that will keep making you look over your shoulder – whether you’re sitting by the fireplace or not!


  1. I loved this too! I'm not sure if anything will ever match The Woman in Black re its power to scare the living daylights out of me but Susan Hill is such a talented writer of those subtle ghost stories. Have you ever seen the theatre adaptation of The Woman in Black - equally spinechilling!

  2. The Small Hand is the first book that I read by Susan Hill. And certainly not the last! I will have to add The Woman in Black to my wish list.


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