I love a good ghost story so it’s surprising that I wasn’t familiar with the work of James Herbert, what with him being hailed as something of a master in the thriller/horror genre. I’d obviously heard of him before but never really thought to try any of his books.
Not until that is, Crickley Hall was serialised as a BBC drama back in December. After tuning in and watching the Caleigh family drama unfold, Papa Smith informed me that he had read the majority of Herbert’s books and enjoyed them. So the next time I was in the bookshop I picked up a copy of Crickley Hall and decided to give it whirl.
Crickley Hall has stood empty for years due to the fact that none of it’s residents have ever wanted to stay for long. Footsteps in the attic, knocking from the cupboards, pungent smells permeating the air, unexplained pools of water and an creaky cellar door that refuses to stay shut are just some of the strange goings on that add to the general air of doom and gloom that hangs over the old hall.
It therefore seems a peculiar choice for the Caleigh’s when dad Gabe moves his wife, Eve, and daughters Loren and Cally, down to Devon from London, to the small seaside town of Hollow Bay to try and get over a devastating family tragedy. Despite initial misgivings and hostility from local residents Eve and Gabe decide to make the hall a home.
But it isn’t long until Crickley Hall’s murky past begins to make itself know and an old evil returns to haunt and harm it’s new residents. The mystery dates back to the war torn 1930’s but will it be solved in time to set the inhabitants of the hall, both past and present, free? And what of the Caleigh’s own heartbreaking search? Will it find the resolution they so desperately crave? And is it inextricably linked to the happenings at Crickley Hall?
After watching and enjoying the television series I’m glad I picked up the book as it offers much more detail and insight into the characters and their circumstances, and gives the story much more weight and depth than the time restraints of the TV series would allow. The haunted house plot is old ground but Herbert creates a disturbingly spooky atmosphere and throws in enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested.
I have to admit to every so often, after one of the characters (frequently) commented how creepy the place was, to thinking “Jesus just pack your bags and move out then!” But I suppose you have to admire the tenacity of the Caleigh family and their determination to solving a mystery. However after all their own troubles I find it hard to believe they’d want the bother.
But if, like me, you love being spooked, if you watched it on the BBC or you meant to catch it and just never got the chance then this book is for you. It has everything a good ghost story should; a creepy old house, lots of ghost, even more secrets, an evil spirit, a thunder storm or two, a family willing to get to the bottom of it and more than one mystery to untangle. A chilling page turner at its best.