There's nothing I love more than a great ghost story, well told.
I don't remember when or what first drew me to stories of ghosts and hauntings, but I do remember a book called The Ghost of Dibble Hollow, by May Nickerson Wallace; it might be the first time I read a book about a ghost which had a real ghost in it, as opposed to the phony ones that appeared in kids' series books (Nancy Drew: The Hidden Staircase, The Haunted Bridge, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, The Haunted Showboat, The Phantom of Pine Hill, just for starters; the Hardy Boys had quite a few as well, and of course, every episode of Scooby Doo Where Are You?). As I moved to fiction for adults, I found any number of wonderful ghost stories (Ammie Come Home and The Haunting of Hill House are just two examples of many) and I still love them just as much as I did when I was a kid. I'm not sure why I love ghost stories so much, and why they affect me so strongly. I myself have only written one ghost story novel, Lake Thirteen, and I know that at some point I will most likely do another.
So, when my friend Alison enthusiastically told me about a haunted house novel she'd just read, I was in.
Whatever Mum's saying's drowned out by the grimy roar of the bus pulling away, revealing a pub called The Fox and Hounds. The sign shows three beagles cornering a fox. They're about to pounce and rip it apart. A street sign underneath says WESTWOOD ROAD. Lords and ladies are supposed to be rich, so I was expecting swimming pools and Lamborghinis, but Westwood Road looks pretty normal to me. Normal brick houses, detached or semidetached, with little front gardens and normal cars. The damp sky's the color of old hankies. Seven magpies fly by. Seven's good. Mum's face is inches away from mine, though I'm not sure if that's an angry face or a worried one. "Nathan? Are you even listening?" Mum's wearing makeup today. That shade of lipstick's called Morning Lilac but it smells more like Pritt Stick than lilacs. Mum's face hasn't gone away, so I say, "What?"
I'd not really heard of David Mitchell prior to reading Slade House, but it turns out he's also the author of Cloud Atlas. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I do trust Alison's taste and so I dove into this novel headlong.
This is definitely a haunted house story, but it's not your usual haunted house story; Slade House is not like any haunted house you've ever encountered before. The book is very short, and incredibly involving; I started reading it on Saturday evening and before I knew it I had read 155 pages. There are several point of view characters, and each is completely, uniquely different and very well done; from young Nathan, who is borderline Asperger's, to the angry and bitter detective inspector, to the young, insecure college student tormented by her own insecurities about her looks and her weight and who feels like no one loves or cares about her, to the lesbian journalist looking into what may or may not be a haunted house story. The images are exceptional, and it's a highly original story as well.
I greatly enjoyed Slade House, and if you like haunted houses, ghost stories, or paranormal tales, I think you will as well.