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  • Ash
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3.5 out of 5 stars
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3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 18 February 2013
I am a big fan of James Herbert, and firstly was slightly amazed when I managed to purchase this book a few months back for just 20p.

Having read it I sort of see why it might get heavily discounted. As is typical with Herbert's writing the story meanders along, and probably does concentrate a bit too much on descriptions or areas of the book that you could do without.

The horror side of it seems rushed, and for me that's where more description would have been welcome, but it seems it was not to be.

The story itself evolves into a horror (just) come outlandish tale of bad folks banished to a secluded prison come hospital come retirement home.

I dare say in this modern age you can imagine such a place may exist, but to this degree I just don't buy it.

Not sure what the last two pages were about, Im no royalist but really.

It's a big book and it was heavy going because it just lacked the hook to make it a real story, I only finished it because I don't like not finishing books that I start, but overall I thought it a poor effort from one of my favourite authors.
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Over the years James Herbert has written some really good books, and some not quite as good, but I don’t think he ever wrote anything as bad as this, his last book. It has been sitting on my TBR pile to read since it first came out in paperback, but I have only now got round to it. It is a real shame that the last book we have from the late author has to be the worse. It would look like he had some fun writing this, but that is perhaps one of the problems, in doing so he went perhaps a bit too far, making this much longer than it needed to be and in the process making this very clichéd.

At times you do wonder if you are reading a horror novel, or a thriller, and there is just too much here that is rather silly. With a secret organisation called the Inner Circle that ultimately wields great power due to the secrets that they have on governments, top people, and royalty; this organisation can more or less blackmail the rich and famous to get what they want. David Ash is called in to do some paranormal investigative work by his employer at Comraich Castle, on the Western shores of Scotland. With a very tight contract that forbids him ever mentioning what he sees he finds the castle is actually a luxurious place for supposedly dead or missing people to live on in total secrecy. But this in itself is a very weak plot. People pay exorbitant fees to enter this place and are really held prisoner, as they can never leave. Placed on drugs and even used as guinea pigs for some medical treatments you do have to wonder who would voluntarily pay to live here, although I should point out that some have been incarcerated by their families, or by government approval.

Although there are some good action sequences here, a lot of this is just a string of conspiracy theories about different people, with some facts thrown in to make it seem a bit more believable. And although there are paranormal occurrences in this story, most of it is more of a conspiracy thriller. With an assassin that looks a lot like Donald Pleasence we go through the same thing over and over again about doesn’t that man look like that actor in those horror films, which does start to grate after a while. With one of the inhabitants at the castle known as ‘The Boy’, we do know who he is before Ash finds out, as it is obvious as you read through this book. What really annoyed me though is when a character dies we are treated to some wonderful out of world experience that seems to imply that Princess Diana was a saint, or Madonna like. Please, whatever you think of the woman, she was a human and just like the rest of us.

In all this was all rather turgid and for most of us it is best probably to forget that James Herbert ever wrote this. Please remember him for better books that he wrote, for instance something like ‘Others’.
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on 11 September 2013
I'm certain this was ghost-written (no pun intended!). James Herbert was never a perfect writer, and in particular has always struggled to write convincing romantic plot lines, but Ash was nowhere near his previous writing standard. The premise was good and this could have been either an excellent black comedy, with all the missing celebrities popping up, or it could have been a very creepy horror novel without the celebrities, but in either case the writing would need to improve dramatically.

I quite enjoyed the beginning of the novel and finding out what Comraich Castle was about, but once it became obvious (and it didn't take long) all there was to grip me was finding out what was causing the paranormal activity. Likewise this became obvious very quickly except for minor details and in the end I only kept reading to find out if there was an interesting twist coming. There wasn't.

I skim-read the last 200 pages or so, stopping to read it properly when a passage looked interesting, but was usually disappointed.

I'm going to pretend this was never written and remember James Herbert for his other, much superior, books.
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on 20 September 2012
I never thought James Herbert could write a book that i wouldn't like. I have always regarded him as a brilliant writer and after many eagerly awaited years, grabbed this book at the first opportunity. He starts in his usual style of building the stage to what you think is going to be a good read, only for you to be scratching you head half way through wondering where hes trying to go with the story. It was sadly to far fetched and the plot seemed to go off on tangents that left me wondering why some were added in the first place. :(
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on 6 March 2014
Oh dear, what a let down this book is. I guess the 8 year break Herbert took before writing this shows in his writing. Way over long and padded out with uninteresting descriptions of landscapes and castle interiors. The editor of this book must have been on holiday as it could have easily lost about 200 pages without affecting the wafer thin plot. Also it's completely laughable how women always throw themselves at the David Ash character. Come on, he's not exactly Jack Reacher, more like a Derek Acora (sic) character. What's sexy about a Parasychologist? Especially one with no personality. The dialogue is also dreadful and out of touch with reality. As for the 'controversial' storyline? Oh please. Hitler having a daughter and Lord Lucan still alive? So what. Himmler's daughter's still alive and no one cares about her. If you want an introduction to Herbert's work stick to his brilliant 70's work and early 80's books. I'd hate to think the late James Herbert's lasting memory is this weak book.
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on 16 August 2013
I grew up loving his books, if this is your first look at Herbert please look up his earlier work.
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on 28 October 2012
Like many of the other reviewers here, I love Herbert's early work- The Rats and The Fog were brilliant. What on earth was he thinking with one? A ghost story set in a castle sounded promising, but it turns out its really a haven for those that wish to disappear. We've got Lord Lucan, Gaddafi, a Serbian warlord, Nazis, Hitlers daughter(!!) and best of all Charles and Diana's deformed son and heir to the throne of England. The plot is dreadful, the dialogue could have been written by a 10 year old. Herbert tries to squeeze in as many fears as possible- plane crash, dungeons, rats, spiders, bats, drowning, or my personal favourites the man-eating feral cats. Why does Haelstrom hate Ash so much? Why does the aging hit-man want to blow the castle up? So many unanswered plot-lines. Ash and Delphine profess their undying love for each other within hours of meeting- it really is terrible.
Possibly the worse book I've ever read. Perhaps Herbert had a pressing tax demand and he had to rush someting out? This book cost 20p on my Kindle. I really was robbed.
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on 30 October 2014
Disappointing. I'd read James Herbert's early books then moved on, like you do. They had all been enjoyable - good pulp fiction horror/thrillers. Now years later I thought I'd give him another go. Honestly - how I managed to get to page 243 I don`t know. I kept hoping it was finally going to get started. It didn't. If you removed the interminably boring pages and pages of describing what each character was wearing etc., in unnecessary detail (yawn) the book would have been half it's size. There had been only one actual `thrilling` (?) moment in all those pages, by which time I was already getting restless. Like another reviewer I wondered if it had been written by him at all.
Sadly, I totally lost interest. I couldn't even care how it ended. Boring.
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on 8 November 2012
I'm a James Herbert fan and I first discovered that he was writing the book Ash at least four years ago. The release was frustrantingly, repeatedly postponed by a year, every year, until finally this year I got my hands on a copy.
"This book must be awesome!" I said to myself, the amount of time James Hebert has spent perfecting the storyline. But, oh how disappointed I was as I began to read it.
Firstly, the dialogue is so clunky it was as if JH has never heard a real conversation. That is honestly the best way I can describe it. People say the most cringe worthy things and you're just left thinking that no sane individual would ever say that. When Ash first starts to get to know the woman he falls madly in love with within the space of a couple of hours she comes out with this badly written and completely unnecessary piece of information when asked where she is from (bearing in mind they've only just met) -
'My mother was Brazilian, and Brazil was where I was born. My father was an English diplomat and he met my mother in Sao Paulo, the country's largest city rather than Rio de Janeiro, as many foreigners seem to think. Rio is the playground that entices the tourists - and criminals - and Brasilia is the seat of government, but Sao Paulo is Brazil's fiancial centre.'
Rather than simply answering 'Sao Paulo.'like a normal person.

Secondly, the ghosts don't really do anything. This didn't really need to be set in a haunted castle.

Thirdly, the whole Hitler's daughter thing was a complete waste of time.

Fourthly, the whole Robert Maxwell thing was boring and a complete waste of time.

Fifthly, the bit where Delphine puts a cloth over her face and Ash thinks that she looks like a beatiful terrorist. Random and promotes negative sterotypes.

Sixthly, I thought this was supposed to be set in Britain! Where the hell did these huge poisonous spiders come from?

Seventhly, I do not believe that someone with skin so thin that it's transparent would survive to 29 even if they are royalty.

Eighthly, wild cats the size of medium sized dogs. Yeah right, they're slightly bigger than a moggy!

I'm going on a bit now. Basically it was just really naff and cheesy and stupid and annoying.
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on 25 August 2014
I haven't read any James Herbert in a while, and probably won't again. Rubbish story, too overblown and ridiculous for its own good; yards of superfluous detail but poor characterisation. I'm sure there are many fans who love it but I won't be joining them.
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