Young Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is ordered by his firm's senior partner to travel up from London to attend her funeral and then sort out all her papers. His task is a lonely one, and at first Kipps is quite unaware of the tragic secrets which lie behind the house's shuttered windows. He only has a terrible sense of unease. And then, he glimpses a young woman with a wasted face, dressed all in black, at the back of the church during Mrs Drablow's funeral, and later, in the graveyard to one side of Eel Marsh House. Who is she? Why is she there? He asks questions, but the locals not only cannot or will not give him answers - they refuse to talk about the woman in black, or even to acknowledge her existence, at all. So, Arthur Kipps has to wait until he sees her again, and she slowly reveals her identity to him - and her terrible purpose.
The Woman In Black treads in the footsteps of the classic ghost story, following the tradition of Charles Dickens and M.R James, of Henry James and Edith Wharton. It is not a horror story or a tale of terror, yet the events build up to a horrifying climax and instil a sense of horror. It relies on atmosphere, a vivid sense of place, on hints and glimpses and suggestions, on what is shadowy, heard and sometimes only half-seen, to chill the reader's blood to the marrow and make reading the book alone at night inadvisable for the faint-hearted.
Stephen Mallatratt's adaptation for the stage remains entirely true to the book itself and uses much of Susan Hill's own descriptive writing and dialogue, while transforming the novel into a totally gripping piece of theatre.