This is a review of the original novel. For our review of the first episode of the TV adaptation, please click here
by James Herbert
Pan, out now
Retreating from London after the loss of their young son, the Calleigh family travel to the West of England. But they find that the previous tenants of their new home are still present…
James Herbert’s first book for some years doesn’t tackle any new themes or look at the ideas of ghostly possession in any novel way, but it’s an enjoyable read. It has the pacing and feel of a television mini-series, and with its ingredients of an American hero, quaint English setting and copious flashbacks, it might almost have been written that way. That may seem like damning with faint praise but in fact it makes the book one of his most entertaining in some time.
Herbert’s prose has come a long way since the pulp fiction days of The Rats or The Fog, and unlike some of his late 1990s novels, there’s not an unnecessary emphasis on descriptions of sex (which would have felt inappropriate here). He creates a mood of increasing dread, sometimes allowing the reader to be ahead of the characters, and at other times offering new revelations to keep you hooked.
After a number of novels that have dragged in places, Crickley Hall is a page turner. It jumps between the various characters rapidly – which does sometimes mean that the secondary ones become a little two-dimensional – but by the end all the pieces fall into place.
Verdict: A welcome return to form. 8/10