The Ghosts of Sleath
by James Herbert
"I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!"
Plot; David Ash is the most cynical "ghost hunter" you will meet, making him one of the more successful researchers at the Psychical Research Institute. In his experience, most hauntings are nothing more than the whims of a depressed person or the selfish actions of someone playing games.
However, as cynical as he may be and as false as most cases are that he researches, Ash cannot deny that he himself has been haunted. A ghost from his past which almost sent him into an emotional and mental breakdown.
It is this ghostly past, on his back, that he carries with him when he is sent to investigate the odd goings-on in the small rural town of Sleath.
From the outside Sleath is perfect; beautiful surrounds, comely cottages, pristine gardens, the type of town you would expect to see on a postcard. From the inside Sleath is a town of fearful people, with a sordid past.
More and more hauntings are going on in this small town and Ash, the cynic, with the help of the town Reverend, Edmund Lockwood, and his daughter Grace, must search out the cause of all these events.
Can he stop it all before it is too late?
My Thoughts; This is the second James Herbert book that I have read and he is quickly becoming my favourite author. So much so, that when I was half way through this book I logged on to EBay and bought myself a stack more of his books to add to my collection!
Typically, I am not a fan of science fiction or horror, but James Herbert makes it seem so real, and he writes so beautifully that you cannot put his books down once you have picked them up.
What I really adore about Herbert novels is that the hero of the tale is not perfect. In this book, David Ash, is far from perfect. He smokes, he drinks, he is unfit, you can imagine that his shirt would be slightly crumpled and his hair would be a mess, and yet you cannot help but like him.
There really is a remarkable cast of characters in this story. It is interesting to watch the world of these villagers. Everyone is being haunted, experiencing terrible things, and yet as they pass each other in the street, or sit next to one another in the pub, these events are not spoken of. They pass each other with a smile, yet the eyes are darkened from nights of haunted dreams.
In this book, Herbert has an incredible skill for making you contradict your own feelings towards these people. You feel sorry for them because what they are going through is so awful and so unimaginable, yet at the same time, you can't show sympathy for people who do nothing to help themselves. People who are turning a blind eye, and even worse, tormenting anyone who does speak out about it.
As I have said, the book is beautifully written. Herbert is an expert when it comes to description. He paints the picture in such detail that you can almost feel the ghostly fog prickle your skin, but he doesn't make the detail tedious. There is a fine line between a book being overly detailed, to the point where you skip over the monotonous chunks of descriptive waste, and a book which is detailed enough to entice your senses without bombarding them. Herbert is the second of the two.
If you like a good scare, this is a really exceptional read. I also recommend this book to those readers who don't usually include sci-fi and horror in their genre list, because this book may just be the one to convert them.
For my other James Herbert review, '48, Click Here.