The Ghosts of Sleath is a first for James Herbert, as while his Rats trilogy was a loosely linked series featuring the same threat over a span of years, this novel marks the first occasion that Herbert has produced a direct sequel to a previous novel continuing the narrative of the lead character, in this instance picking up the story of 'ghost hunter' David Ash three years after the events of Haunted. Haunted is a tough act to follow, being perhaps Herbert's most effective novel, a concise and unsettling ghost story built around a major plot twist. Following the cynical Ash's confrontation with the supernatural in Haunted, there's no real mileage to be had out of the characters 'are they real, are they fake?' debunking of ghosts, so Herbert instead takes the traditional sequel route, with The Ghosts of Sleath expanding the action, so now instead of a haunted house we have an entire haunted village.
The ultimate backstory explanation for the hauntings, with dark family histories and black rites is all pretty standard genre material, as is the ghost climactic revenge on their enemies, but The Ghosts of Sleath remains a fantastic read due to Herbert's storytelling skills. After the misfire of Portent Herbert is back to his best, with a group of vividly drawn characters, evocative writing, and some inventive and gruesome set pieces, with the ghost of a child-abusing parent haunting the ghost of his own dead son being a particularly inspired idea.
At twice the length The Ghosts of Sleath lacks the cutting brevity of Haunted, and feels a little bloated as a result, and while this sequel doesn't quite live up to the original it comes close enough to be a fantastically macabre ghost story, and ranks among Herbert's better novels. Recommended - but do read Haunted first.