Every nine years, someone walks through the small black iron door off Slade Alley to find themselves in the garden of Slade House, a house that’s not even visible from the alley. In 1979, it was little Nathan Bishop and his mother Rita, there at the invitation of Lady Grayer, owner of Slade House. The Bishops were never seen again, and Norah Grayer has proven impossible to find. And in 1988, a police detective wanders into that same garden, curious about the mystery. . .
Each chapter in David Mitchell’s Slade House covers another encounter with the mysterious house. I’ve seen it described as a series of short stories, but I experienced it as a novel with an episodic structure, each chapter building on the last at a satisfying pace and with a different voice taking the lead. Aside from the first chapter, none of the chapters stand alone. This book is apparently linked with Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, employing some of the same mythology, but I didn’t feel I was missing any essential knowledge without having read the earlier book. The mystery of Slade House is supposed to be disorienting and weird at first, and the explanations that begin to fill in the narrative are enough. If there’s more to the story, I didn’t need it.
As for the story itself, it’s a lot of fun if you enjoy haunted house stories. It’s not a great masterwork of the genre. It offers little commentary on the human condition or cultural norms. It just offers shudders and thrills, which is no small thing. The ending goes a little over the top, perhaps, but I often find that to be the case with horror stories. To me, the real chills are usually in the set-up, and this book is no exception. I enjoyed reading this overall, and if I ever get around to The Bone Clocks, I’m sure I’ll enjoy seeing the links to this story.
I received a review copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.