Ghostly doings are afoot in Edwardian London. Choking fog rolls over the treacle- black Thames. Braziers cast eerie shadows in grimy alleyways. Two sinister doctors hunch beside a dying fire in the appropriately-named Printer’s Devil Court, ‘a dark house, with steep, narrow stairs’. Having supped on a hearty repast of lamb stew and treacle pudding, the ‘shadowy’ Dr Walter reveals his dastardly scheme. ‘We are proposing... to bring the dead back to life.’ Our hero young Dr Meredith is appalled. This is diabolical! Derivative of Frankenstein! Not quite. The experiment results in a phantom rather than a monster.
No gothic element is spared in this tale. The author has surpassed herself. Phosphorescent women wander in misty graveyards and devilish medical experiments are conducted in dank hospital basements. I suspect this could have been written with an adaptation in mind to rival the success of Hill’s The Woman in Black, although Printer’s Devil Court is a lot shorter. There is no time even to get to know the characters, as we dart from subterranean cellar to dark morgue. The ending is so abrupt it seems as if Hill was in a tearing hurry to exorcise her fictional phantoms in order to get on with real life.
I, on the other hand, did not feel I had become adequately acquainted with the ghosts. I needed more time to mull them over — to familiarise myself with their spectral quirks of personality. I shall have to wait for the movie. Think of it as what EastEnders would be like if directed by David Lynch.