Book review: Printer’s Devil Court

Printer’s Devil Court by Susan Hill.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Doctors, eh?

They’re always up to no good. I mean, trying to save lives and learn about the body and bring people back to life. Where do they get off?

Well, at the last one, if Susan Hill’s story here is to be believed. Because it would seem that fucking with the line between life and death is not an endeavour that Ends Well. Especially if you’re a medical student with some overly inquisitive – and rather full of themselves – roomies.

People seem to either love or hate this story, with nothing in between. I think the problem with the work is that it’s an exercise in style. Though it’s set in the early/mid 20th century – mentions of The Blitz fix it in time – this is essentially a Victorian spook story. If there hadn’t been three specific things in the text – oxygen masks, the Blitz, and the telegraph – it would be difficult to pinpoint when the events took place.

This mysterious chronology, coupled with an examination of scientific endeavour’s incursion on the supernatural, creates a very mannered tale, framed as a collection of documents changing hands after the author’s death. The story is not particularly original, but it absolutely works with the setting and format, and prompts questions about fate and the afterlife.

(Naturally, rooting about in Death’s undergarments turns out to be a fairly ill-advised plan.)

The length of Printer’s Devil Court is perfect: it’s a short, sharp read which creates a cloying world but doesn’t stick around long enough to allow too many holes to form. It’s a little silly and more spooky than scary, but I enjoyed it greatly, which probably is a hint that I should read The Woman In Black.

I’m not really using Goodreads any more, because I’d rather not get involved in its toxic, Bezos-enriching stew. If you’re after some good bookish times, please check out my profile on TheStoryGraph.

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