Staff Review: Slade House
David Mitchell is well known for his intricate plotlines and storytelling, especially in novels like “The Bone Clocks” and “Cloud Atlas.” In “Slade House,” Mitchell brings his brand of storytelling to the haunted house genre. Opening in 1979, the novel tells the linked story of mysterious disappearances that happen in an alleyway. Every nine years, a mysterious door opens in the wall of this paved alleyway and invites the unwary inside to a beautiful garden and traditional manor house. If you were to go looking for the front entrance to this enchanted house, you would be disappointed. The door in the wall is the only way in.
Mitchell weaves a plot full of mystery and mild horror into a story worth remembering. Replacing the traditional ghosts with nefarious twins looking to prolong their lives at the expense of others makes this novel intriguing. His development of the twins’ story alongside their plots to capture and destroy visitors to their home makes for exciting reading, with a delicious side of spookiness.
While this book is relatively straightforward in its telling of the story, it’s the details that make this novel rise above humdrum horror. The characters of the twins is contrasted with their hapless victims, until near the end, one of the victims manages to fight back, an act that leads to the unraveling of the twins’ plots. In the last story, taking place in 2015, the twins confront a psychiatrist with her own secret, who ultimately ends their rule over Slade House. But the win for the good guys rings somewhat hollow when one of the twins manages to survive and find an unborn child to possess.
If you are looking for a literary haunted house story, “Slade House,” definitely fills the bill. Mitchell’s use of details to build the characters of the twins elevates them from simply spooky to two of the more mysterious and devious villains in literature. The use of linked stories, in which victims of earlier murders appear reinforce the spookiness of the house. In spite of all this, in the end, “Slade House” is more literary and less scary.