Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Ghosts of Sleath, by James Herbert

(hb; 1994: second book in the David Ash series)

From the inside flap:

"Sleath. Quiet, peaceful. A small village hidden away in the Chiltern Hills, almost forgotten by the modern world. Nothing much seems to happen here, little disturbs the centuries-old tranquility.

"Until the ghosts begin to appear. And frighteningly bizarre events begin to occur.

"Psychic investigator David Ash, a man burdened by the dark secret of his own past, is sent to Sleath to investigate the phenomenona and his discoveries there drive him to the very edge of sanity. The incidents grow worse, until, in a final night of horror, awesome and malign forces are unleashed in a supernatural storm that threatens to consume the village itself.

"For Sleath is not what it seems. And the dead have returned for a reason."


Sleath is a solid, if initially slow-moving, sequel to Haunted. As he did in that first David Ash novel, Herbert favors a classic - read: slow character- and tension-build - approach to his tale, perhaps prompting readers used to quick thrills/fast action to get impatient with Sleath (I did) or drop the novel for another book.

What made Sleath worth reading, for me, is that, along the way - even during the slow-build parts - Herbert's interesting variations on the ghost genre, as well as his variations on his first book, stood out. Sleath's characters were like those out of one of the better Hammer films, and the explicitly laid out horrors were intense, cinematic and creative in their unveilings.

The ending is borderline apocalyptic for those in the village, simultaneous terror, gore and violence for all involved - that is to say, while familiar, it's a satisfying finale to an "Old School" horror tale.

Decent read from an excellent author; worth checking out, this. If you purchase it, make sure you don't pay full price.

Followed by Ash.

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