Review: The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert

August 10, 2011 Horror, Paranormal Fiction, Review, Tor Books 6

  • Paperback:640 pages
  • Publisher:Tor Books; First Edition edition (July 5, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0765328887
  • Source: Library copy

It’s been nearly a year since Gabe & Eve Caleigh lost their son, Cam.  He disappeared while playing on a playground; an exhausted Eve had fallen asleep just for a few brief moments, long enough for Cam to disappear.

Gabe & Eve take their two daughters (Loren and Cally) and move from London after Gabe takes a new job.  The move isn’t permanent, just something to force Eve out of the depression she’s been in since Cam disappeared.  Their temporary home is Crickley Hall, a dark, manor built from granite blocks.  Gabe seems to be the only one not bothered by Crickley’s ominous atmosphere; even the family dog, Chester, is frightened.

It doesn’t take long before mysterious things begin to happen: voices, shadows, mysterious puddles of water on the cold stone floors. The cellar door, while locked at night, appears unlocked in the morning. Gabe blames it on the building’s old construction, but Eve & the girls can’t dismiss it. Loren is physically beaten by an unseen force; Cally is seen playing with flying bits of light. Eve’s determined to find out more about the history of Crickley Hall.

Crickley Hall’s past is part of the local history; during the World War II, the town experienced a horrible flood. The residents of Crickley Hall were orphans, evacuees sent from London to escape the Blitz. Eleven of the children died in the flood, reportedly drowned in the dank cellar of Crickley Hall. Eve can’t accept this; why would the children be in the cellar during a flood? Why wouldn’t they seek safety in the higher floors?

Eventually, the horrid secret of Crickley Hall is unveiled, a secret so horrible and dark, kept long hidden by overly protective townspeople.

The Secret of Crickley Hall is a true classic haunted house story, in every sense. It has everything a great horror novel should: dark surroundings, mysterious untimely deaths.  Add some suspicious townspeople,a psychic  and an elderly caretaker and the combination is complete.  Herbert is known for his chilling, gothic stories; the atmosphere he provides in his novels truly becomes a character in itself.  The whispers in the night, the rattling of the wind all add to the reader’s experience. I’m not one to scare easily yet I found myself with goosebumps while reading this book.

Another characteristic of classic ghost stories is the psychological horror, in addition to the physical. The family is already in a weakened state after the loss of young Cam.  The house feeds off this; increasing in strength. The reader can sense the energy increasing with each turn of the page. As with all horror stories, the ending is intense; I found myself holding my breath through the last several pages.

While there is a bit of gore, compared to other horror stories it is quite minimal. If you are looking for a classic horror story to read on a dark, rainy night, The Secret of Crickley Hall is the book for you. Highly, highly recommended!

6 Responses to “Review: The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert”

  1. Jackie

    I’ve got goosebumps from reading your review! will have to check this one out!
    I’m not the gorey horror type, but like the psychological more, so this looks like a good for me!

  2. Becky
    Twitter: BeckyLeJeune

    Yay! Herbert is by far one of my favorite horror authors — right up there with King. I can’t wait til his latest is released. I read Crickley Hall when it first came out in the UK (and it’s taken forever for it to get released here). Ash — the third book following Haunted and Ghosts of Sleath is supposed to be out in the UK next year. I’ve still got some older ones to read in the meantime.

  3. Jessica

    James Herbert is a bit of a blast from the past for me as I used to get my way through his books when I was in school. Great review