19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Interesting but we've been her before...,
This review is from: The Secret of Crickley Hall (Hardcover)This latest novel is a very traditional ghost story that borders on being cliched, but is kept interesting by Herbert's fertile imagination, and captivating writing style.
I have always enjoyed reading Herbert's work since the mid 80s when I came across him as a teenager. He peaked during this period with classics like Shrine, The Magic Cottage and Haunted. But since then he seems to have got stuck on the famous writer treadmill, churning out much the same formula each time, but with different settings.
There have been a few exceptions - Ghosts of Sleath and Others were atmoshpheric and original, but with this latest it just felt as an old Herbert fan that we've been here just too many times before.
The themes of ghosts being 'trapped' moving over to the other side was one of the main themes of his last book Nobody True and the haunted house scenario he covered in The Magic Cottage and Haunted.
What saves the book is the relentless atmosphere and tension Herbert builds around the house - a former orphanage with a murky past, the creepy cellar with its disused well, old toys in the dormitory from the 1940s. But much of the writing here is repetitive and frankly rather dull. Too many of the earlier chapters end with just a creepy sound, footsteps, or a cellar door opening, but then nothing more. I was hoping some ghost would just jump out of a cupboard and throttle one of the family members just to get the plot moving!
The family are very two dimensional in the story, with little room for character development - and the back story of them moving to the house after a bereavement I found a bit depressing, perhaps it is hard to write about this subject unless you have experienced that kind of tragedy first hand. This applies to the main character of Gabe who is supposed to be American - Herbert just doesn't convince here.
The characters from the past are much more interesting, from the schoolmaster Cribben, to Stafford the sadistic schoolboy informer.
If you want to read a classic ghost story in a modern setting, then this is a good place to start, but many Herbert fans may feel he has done this kind of story much more effectively before...