Review: The Woman in Black – Angel of Death / Author: Martyn Waites / Publisher: Hammer / Release Date: Out Now
Susan Hill's novel, The Woman in Black, has spawned stage and radio adaptations and, as you will surely know, a film starring Daniel Radcliffe that became the biggest grossing UK horror movie for many years. With a follow-up to the movie due in 2014, Hammer have now released a sequel to the book too, one that sees author Martyn Waites daring to follow in Hill's footsteps.
The central plot is strong – it is World War 2 and children are being evacuated from the horror of the Blitz. Eel Marsh House has been renovated (though not well) and is to be used as a school. Cue the arrival of hordes of children. This is clever in that the Woman in Black focusses her attention on children, on and through whom she wreaks her evil revenge.
The story wastes no time in introducing us to new characters (two women teachers) and a love interest in the form of the inevitable young officer. We then get in quick, storyboard succession strange shadows, eerie voices, mould, rocking chairs, Victorian toys and an attempt to build to a conclusion. Sadly the effect on the reader is to be continually looking out for mentions of the Radcliffe movie and the experience becomes one of ticking off relics of that movie rather than developing a new story. We also didn’t enjoy the rapid sequence of very short scenes and never felt engaged with the development of characters.
Waites can clearly write, but the book never seems to shake off the shadow of the original or find its own way, which is a disappointment given the potential of the subject matter.