Synopsis: Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door.
Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents—an odd brother and sister—extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late. . . .
Spanning five decades, from the last days of the 1970s to the present, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, this intricately woven novel will pull you into a reality-warping new vision of the haunted house story—as only David Mitchell could imagine it.
I’m a sucker for supernatural/occult novels. We’re in that special time of year when the hot summer weather is slowly (oh so slowly!) giving way to autumn, which is my preferred time of year to read scary stories. After seeing this one recommended by none other than Stephen King on Twitter (he praised it as ‘one of the rare great ones’), I ordered myself a copy from Amazon and sat down with it as soon as it came in the mail. I read it, in part, while sitting on my back patio. As I took in the story I felt a cool evening breeze on my face while holding a glass of sweet tea in my right hand. Talk about relaxation! I finished it in two days. Needless to say (if you’ve seen my rating, anyway), I was not disappointed.
Slade House is, of course, about a house. A possessed house driven by the psychic energy of twins who are over six decades old (by the novel’s last section, that is). In this story’s scant 245 pages, David Mitchell uses these two characters to such great ends — man, they are so much fun. ‘Fun’ in this case being, of course, scary as hell. This is one of the rare novels that covers a span of decades and characters in a concise and effective manner. The author never loses the thread or spins his wheels; he gives the reader the goods and doesn’t let up until the end.
Slade House itself is one of the most remarkable haunted houses I’ve read about in horror fiction — and I’ve read about quite a few. It is, quite literally, out of time and space and is invisible to all except its poor, unsuspecting victims. Its dimensions are off, its ambiance unnerving. It is a house almost beyond description, but Mitchell does a wonderful job of evoking the sense of power and dread that secretes from its cursed grounds. More than once the author simultaneously pulled the wool over my and the victims’ eyes, and I never really knew what would happen next. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.
This is an excellent read. Stephen King was right — it’s one of the rare great ones. My only complaint is I do wish it was longer, but only because the twins and their victims captivated me, and I would’ve liked to have spent more time with each and every character Mitchell brought to life. If you’re looking for a scary read that will have you continually guessing while tottering on the edge of your seat, you could do much worse than Slade House.