On one side of a high wall lies a narrow alley; on the other, a sunlit garden; and between them, a small black iron door.
You just need to open it.
Welcome to Slade House.
First of all…how gorgeous is that cover?? Certainly a testament to the artist, because its what drew me to it. I’ve never read any of David Mitchell’s other work, so had no idea what to expect from it, and the blurb wasn’t willing to give too much away either. A risky move, but I was intrigued (in part, because it’s a brief 230 pages long), but within the front cover lies a fleshed-out brief on what to expect. A supernatural tale with a touch of the old gothic style definitely caught my interest.
I liked the set-up. Five chapters that are stories in themselves, joined by a singular commonality. The first offers more confusion as you’d expect, with the nature of the house and its inhabitants becoming increasingly clearer the further you go into the story. With a knowledge of what to expect, and a of hopelessness for the characters involved – I think the most gripping chapter, for me, was the third. It follows a group of teenagers into the house, and I’m practically holding my breath, willing them to get out in one piece. Definitely a part of the book that offers a shiver down the spine!
And for a book written by a middle aged guy, I could absolutely believe in the fifth chapter’s narrator as a teenage girl. A testament to any great writer. I read the words people used to describe the book – ‘creepy,’ ‘chilling,’ and ‘skin-crawling,’ and have to agree with all of them. His use of mundane props offer nothing to the protagonist, but give the reader that sense of dread, that increases with each step they take toward the attic.
I don’t want to give anything away – it’s a brilliant book that I highly recommend, BUT… two things.
- The inhabitants of the house had a knack of dishing out a chunk of exposition at the end of each chapter. With a lot of backstory to consider, this segmented info-dumping was for the benefit of the reader, and felt a little forced.
- Some of this info-dump included brief mentioning of some ‘other’ group, that weren’t really expanded upon until the last two chapters. I’ll say I was left a little disappointed, when you’re rooting for any number of other characters to save the day, and having something of a deus ex machina wedged into the final chapter. It can leave you feeling a bit cheated.
The ending might have flagged a little, but it’s still a compelling read, filled with chilling scenes that leaves you feeling wonderfully unnerved.