HAUNTED (James Herbert)

the-secret-of-crickley-hall-by-james-herber‘Haunted’ is another of James Herbert’s more ‘concise’ thrillers, along the lines of ‘The Rats’ and ‘The Magic Cottage’. Despite its relative directness, the action tends to drag in places for the first two-thirds of the book.

The hero, David Ash’s stubborn adherence to skepticism in the face of ghosts that set him on fire and try to drown him, is rather touching. What will it take to make him believe in the supernatural? In one unintentionally funny flashback, which seems to be completely unrelated to the main story, Ash attends a fake séance and jumps up to denounce the medium. He claims she is not really communicating with the dead, she is in fact reading the minds of the living. She is a telepath.

The opening chunk of the story seems unusually quiet and uneventful for a Herbert tale. The most interesting parts are actually digressions from the main plot, shown as flashback sequences from the viewpoints of Ash’s two colleagues, Kate and Edith. Both sequences are entertaining, and insightful about Ash as a character, but they seem to point out the lack of action in the main story.

As mentioned before, there is very little humor or ‘comic relief’ in Haunted. This is something of a departure for Herbert, as he always includes some (usually dark) joke to lighten the tension at some point.

In this tale Herbert does insert a long-winded, filling station attendant into one of those scenes where a major character ‘just wants some information’…and the guy doesn’t shut up for about two pages. He spews forth a non-stop monologue of ‘Northern English-accented’ rural speak. This segment takes away more from the story than it added, as if it seemed to be there more for Herbert’s amusement than the reader’s benefit.

But what really saves ‘Haunted’ is the last half of the story. As we learn more about the respective pasts of both David and the Mariells, the tension begins to accelerate. A romance heats up as well. All in all this is a satisfying scary read, as well as a hint of things to come in Ash’s next appearance, in ‘The Ghosts of Sleath’. A book for patient fans of the author and the genre. Patience will be rewarded. 7 out of 10

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