Title: The Secret of Crickley Hall
Author: James Herbert
Page Count/Review Word Count: 604
I picked this one up at a charity shop when I was hunting around with my friend Sabrina, and I was pretty excited to see it because she’s also a big James Herbert fan and so I was lucky to spot it before she did. I promised I’d give her my copy once I finished, but I’ve also been giving her a lot of books lately and so I’m still sitting on it so that I don’t overwhelm her.
That’s especially true because of how long this one is. It’s not as much of a casual read as some of Herbert’s other books, and you need to know going into it that you have a week or so to dedicate to letting the story wash over you. The good news is that it’s a cracking little read and so you could do a lot worse.
It’s pretty much the archetypal haunted house story, and so if haunted houses are your thing then you basically need to read this one. It’s creepy, it features ghost kids who were evacuated from London during the Second World War, and there’s a super strict Christian dude who’s using his religion as a way to be horrible to people.
It also has an old mansion with a chequered history, to the point at which everyone in the village knows all about it. There’s even a medium who had a bad experience at the place, although it’s a little different depending upon whether you read the book or watch the series. As always, the book did it better – in the TV series, they took away what had been haunting her and made it so that she’d had a miscarriage after visiting Crickley Hall, which seemed unnecessary.
I did watch the TV show though, and it was pretty good. It twisted my proverbial melon a little bit because Maisie Williams was in it, and so every time I looked at her, I just thought of her as Arya. But that’s all I’m going to say about the TV show, other than that it’s worth checking out.
The Secret of Crickley Hall, then, is a cracking read that does a great job with a number of classical haunted house tropes. It trickles information out slowly to keep the reader hungry for more, and the characterisation is top notch. Even though the action takes place over a relatively short time period, you can see the development happening and it feels surprisingly believable considering it’s set against the backdrop of the supernatural.
You don’t need to believe in ghosts to feel the horror from this one, and I’m living proof of that. In fact, even though the supernatural is obviously an important aspect of the narrative as a whole, most of the true horror comes from the evil that lurks within people, which I think is much more horrifying anyway.
And so even though it did take me a while to get to this one, it was definitely worth the wait and it’s also definitely a book that I’d recommend to my horror friends. There’s just a lot to like and not much to dislike, and I guess my only complaint would be that there was a little less of the gore and viscera that Herbert writes so well. But then, that wouldn’t have worked as well in this book anyway, because it’s much more about creeping dread than about the Final Destination style gross outs he does.