Top positive review
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"The evil that men do lives after them"
on October 5, 2006
James Herbert's latest book, The Secret of Crickley Hall, uses an old and established formula - an ageing, deserted Gothic house that has been left to decay because of some tragic event whose circumstances have been clouded by the passage of time. The villagers in the neighbourhood all have their own theories about what happened but no one really knows the truth. However, when a family - in this case the Caleighs's move in, they find the house has been haunted by these past events, and is inhabited by ghosts with 60 years of repressed anger to vent.
Even though this is an old, established formula, it is also a very good one. Most horror writers use it at some point in their writing careers. (Herbert has used it at least once before with Haunted.)
An old Gothic mansion is a great starting point for a ghost story, with wind and rain crashing against the windowpanes, and strange noises and visions that have either ghostly explanations or, for the more cynical in the story, more rational explanations, such as tricks of light, and wind rattling through the floorboards. (Cynics are always the idiots in these stories: in this book the Dad of the family, Gabe Caleigh, insists that nothing is wrong, and there are no such things as ghosts, while everyone else - even you, the reader - is yelling at him just to get the family into the car and drive away!) But that's what we love about these stories - the atmosphere, and the stupidity of the people being haunted. (Personally, if I saw ghostly spectres dancing around my house or if my child insisted she had a new set of friends to play with who I couldn't see, I would be out of there!)
James Herbert's new book is a refreshing visit back to this old formula and fails to disappoint. It builds atmosphere, while recounting the tragic circumstances surrounding the happenings in the house, leaving you, the reader, to figure out the truth behind the mystery of what actually happened to the characters. This book has all the elements a good horror novel should. (An array of suspicious villagers, a psychic and a few covered up murders.)
In sum, The Secret of Crickley Hall is a good read - a must for Halloween, when the wind and rain are pelting against the windowpanes, and the only sound you can hear is the wind rustling through the floorboards... ...