I’m not sure what I expected from David Mitchell’s Slade House after reading (and loving) Cloud Atlas. But it wasn’t the relentless, chilling horror story of rapacious souls that I got. It’s a good thing that this novel will be released just in time for Halloween. At the heart of Slade House is the question: how far would you go to live forever?
There’s no inkling of this question at the beginning of Slade House. In fact, there’s no hint of anything supernatural at all for several pages. We are introduced to Nathan Bishop and his social-climbing, short-tempered mother, Rita. Rita has been invited to the eponymous house to meet a famous violinist and hobnob with with the nobility. He’s not expecting much, but Nathan seems to have found a friend in the son of Slade House, Jonah Grayer. I didn’t twig to the fact that there was something paranormal going on even when the story starts to get strange. Nathan had taken some of his mother’s Valium. Valium has been known to cause hallucinations. Even Nathan isn’t aware that something weird is happening when he spots a portrait of himself at Slade House, with no eyes.
The Bishops’ disappearance sets the pattern for several other strange episodes involving Slade House. The novel jumps from 1979 to 1988 to 1997 to 2006 to 2015. Time after time, people end up at Slade House to investigate disappearances: a detective, a group of ghosthunters, an investigating sister. The mysteries are resolved fairly quickly. The villains in this story can’t help but monologue, revealing how they disappear their “guests” and why.
The tension in this novel comes from whether or not Jonah and Norah Grayer can even be stopped. They want to live forever and they’re sure they’ve found a way to do it. Because Slade House only appears once a year, because the Grayers are “living” outside of time, their plan is perfect. The way that the Grayers dispatch their victims is terrifying. I actually had to take a break from the book because Mitchell’s story was freaking me out.
The villains’ habit of telling their victims and pursuers what they’re up to and how may irritate some readers. Other than that, Slade House is a captivating read.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 27 October 2015.