Having read Susan Hill's horror classic some time ago, the back of my mind considered The Woman in Black as a kind of horror piece; but it's not - it opens with the story of a woman impersonating a call girl to help a detective solve a mystery that has kept his investigation at arm's length. But her mission is about to become a lot more complicated; not only because a new speech emulation program is enabling her to pull off the switch so far, but because she is also becoming more involved in the detective's already-complicated personal life.
And this is the tip of the iceberg - happily.
On the face of it, The Woman in Black is a mystery. It's also a thriller and a novel of psychological suspense, as each protagonist has lot to win - and a lot to lose - in a complex game that is revealed in bits and pieces, chapter by chapter.
Like a good game of chess, moves and countermoves result in each side holding key pieces - but not the ability to make the winning move that will definitively end the standoff.
And that's what makes The Woman in Black so compelling: in the end, it's all about the standoff. The unpredictability is what counts - and what makes this story such a winner. It's rare for a seasoned mystery/detective reader to say one can't quite see it coming until the end - but it's the case here, and the winning gambit that makes The Woman in Black more than a cut-and-dried case of investigation, romance, or crime.
I read a lot of crime and mystery fiction: so much so that formula works stand out a mile away. So it's refreshing to read something that sounds familiar - but is not.
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