I have to admit that the thing which drew me to Slade House by award-winning and bestselling author David Mitchell was the M.C. Escher – esque book cover illustration. It pulled me in yet I had no idea just how perfect it was for this story, literally. If Escher had been an author instead of an artist, this is the novel he would have written because he loved twisting his viewers’ minds into pretzels.
Slade House is my Halloween pick this year for all of you hardcore horror buffs who can’t wait to get your scary on. It was such a mind-f’k that I had to keep putting it down – I could not read it straight through for the sake of my sanity, and I mean that quite literally. You know it’s a terrifying read when I’m talking to the book, “No, no, no, no, don’t do that! Oh hell, I told you not to do that. Agh, here we go again!” You know that TV commercial that says, “When you’re a character in a horror movie, you make really bad decisions.” – and then the freaked out teens hide behind the serial killer’s wall of chain saws – it’s like that in spades. So, horror fans, have I got a book for you!
There are lots of alleys in London but we’re only going to talk about one, Slade Alley. It’s not an alley you’d normally find yourself in but you might stumble onto it by accident after having one too many at The Fox and Hounds, the local pub around the corner. Not everyone is drawn to Slade Alley but some are, and some of those are drawn at just the right time to see the small, black, iron door set into one of its high walls. But just seeing the door doesn’t mean anything unless you’re the one whose palm will activate it – and those are a select few indeed who happen upon it once every nine years. Pray you aren’t one of the people who are invited in to visit Slade House.
Our story starts with twins who disappeared a long time ago. No one knows what ever became of them. And then, well, that was just the beginning. It’s odd how some people go into Slade Alley but they never come out. It happens so rarely that it might just seem like a random fluke and nothing to do with the alley itself…
“’Lady Grayer insisted you come along, so…you have to act normal. Can you do that? Please? Think of the most normal boy in your class, and do what he’d do.’
Acting normal’s like Blending in. ’I’ll try…’…Slade Alley’s the narrowest alley I’ve ever seen. It slices between two houses, then vanishes left after thirty paces or so. I can imagine a tramp living there in a cardboard box, but not a lord or lady.”
“She pulls me away and we go down the middle section of Slade Alley. It’s about five houses long, I’d guess, but hemmed in by brick walls so high you can’t see anything. Just sky. ‘Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door,’ says Mum, ‘set in the right-hand wall.’
“‘If someone killed you down here,’ I remark, ‘nobody’d see.’ Mum ignores me…Mum stops: ‘I’ll be jiggered.’ There’s a small black iron door, set into the brick wall. It’s small all right. I’m four feet, eleven inches, and it’s only up to my eyes. A fat person’d need to squeeze hard to get through. It has no handle, keyhole, or gaps around the edges. It’s black, nothing-black, like the gaps between stars…
Mum pushes the door, but it stays shut. ‘How on Earth does the bally thing open? Perhaps we ought to knock.’
The door pulls my palm up against it. It’s warm.
And as it swings inward, the hinges shriek like brakes.”
Telling you anything about the characters would be to provide huge spoilers. I will say that Slade House is a house out of time, and that many of its residents are not there by choice. Some are human, or were at one time, and some are spirits. And I hate telling you even that much…let’s just say that you will quickly learn why you don’t want to be like Nathan Bishop and his mum, who are featured in the above quotes…or anyone else whose palm activates the black door. *shiver*
David Mitchell has written a masterful work in Slade House. To me, this is like a grown-up version of Hansel and Gretel but on steroids. OMG It scared the hell out of me. There’s nothing worse for me than realizing you can’t do anything to save really wonderful characters from their fate, once you’ve learned what that fate is going to be. The plasticity of Slade House over the decades roped me in over and over again, just like its new guests. *shiver*
Is it a haunted house story? Yes. Is it a locked door mystery? Yes. Are there serial killers involved? But of course. Is it horrific? You betcha. Is it terrifying? It still haunts me when I think about it, and I try not to do that. If you like novels that are scary to the max, then I recommend Slade House to you. Enjoy your chilling, eerie read!
Events & Author Signings:
Monday, 11/2/2015 – Pittsburgh, PA – Carnegie Music Hall @ 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, 11/3/2015 – Manhattan, NY – 92nd Street Y (92Y Lecture Series) @ 8 p.m.
Thursday, 11/5/2015 – Miami, FL – Miami Dad College, Chapman Conference Center @ 7pm
Friday, 11/6/2015 – Kansas City, MO – Unity Temple on the Plaza Sanctuary @ 7pm
Saturday, 11/7/2015 – First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor, MI @ 6pm
Sunday, 11/8/2015 – Chicago, IL – The Music Box Theater @ 7:30pm
(Please note: All of the above appearances require a ticket purchase. Contact the venue for more information.)
Can’t wait to read it?
Slade House was published on October 27, 2015, so it’s available now from your favorite online bookseller in all formats. If you download it as an e-book, you can start this chilling read immediately!
I’d love to get your comments on Slade House, David Mitchell and/or his other work, and/or this review.