Ash by James Herbert
David Ash - detective of the paranormal is sent to the mysterious Comraich Castle, secluded deep in the Scottish countryside, to investigate a strange, high-profile case: a man has been found crucified - in a room that was locked. The reports suggest that the cliff-top castle is being haunted…
Who - or what - is the reclusive hooded figure that Ash has seen from the window walking across the courtyard in the dead of night?
What are the strange, animal-like sounds that come from the surrounding woods?
And why are the castle’s inhabitants so reluctant to talk about what they have seen?
As a Herbert fan of old, the thought of reading a book named after his best-known and most troubled protagonist David Ash filled me with such glee that my hands were almost trembling as I turned the cover, however, that is not to say I intend to write a biased review, but there is undeniably much to enjoy in this book.
David Ash is a parapsychologist enlisted to solve unexplained disturbances and a violent death at the deeply dark and disturbing Comraich Castle, which remains - even to David Ash - in a secret location and houses many rich and some infamous guests. It is owned and run by a secret society known as The Inner Circle. As Ash's stay at Comraiche unfolds the facade of a sanctuary for the wealthy slips away to reveal the true nature of its purpose and a nightmarish journey begins for our anti-hero, who has to unravel the secrets held in the castles dungeons and avoid a plethora of nastiness in its grounds before he will be allowed to leave.
Kate McCarrick, Head of the Psychical Research Institute who employs Ash, also figures and discovers this unseen society is not only in control of many powerful ventures and people, its influence is seen to be woven through history itself.
The choice to use real events and people within the story does give the reader a feeling of inclusion with Mr Herbert selecting (of course) the darker stories that have graced our news in the past half century or more years, a tool he has used before in previous works such as Portent. It works well in this book, keeping the reader's interest peaked and has been used as a vehicle to give major nuggets of information and not just a nice sub-text throughout the story.
You aren't short-changed on horror content in this book either; in some ways I think Ash is reminiscent of some of Herbert's classic titles, such as The Magic Cottage and of course Haunted. The horror is tempered with healthy dollop of dark humour and a sprinkling of gore. There are also many interesting sub-plots, which are interlaced throughout the book to keep the story going at a fair old pace.
I really loved the strong characters in this book, who grab the readers attention from the beginning and a broader spectrum of characters you couldn't wish to meet, from the ethereal to the down-right psychotic. All good stuff.
I'm a definite fan of this book, however I did feel the love interest element of the story did lag a little for me, however, I must impress that there is plenty more going on within the plot to carry these pages, which I personally found a little heavy going.
There are very clever elements to this book and I think whilst Herbert fans will love it, it will also appeal to readers who may have never read his works before but just enjoy a good scary book. There is no denying there are themes and characters in the book that have been explored before, but Herbert has twisted new angles for every one and ventures down new avenues, some extremely surprising, to keep the book fresh.
This is in short a page-turner, a very entertaining read that will have you hesitating before turning off the bedside lamp. What more could you ask for in a fantasy horror book?
This Ash book review was written by Amanda White
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