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?
Review by Amanda White
Sharon from United Kingdom
This book is so addictive, can't put it down. I feel sorry for Ash and what he had to put up with. The people in the dungeon was terrible. People were just forgotten if they were different or really ill. To me the book came across as true. So James Herbert did a good job.
Patricia from GB
I have just finished the book and must say I really enjoyed it. Forget the haunting I found the content very interesting. I can't help but believe that some of what he has written could very well be true. The state of the UK at the moment makes the book all the more believable as I do think that the Government as well as the Royal Family are more than capable of some of the things written by Mr Herbert. Sorry if this is a bit of a political rant but it really did get me thinking. James Herbert I salute you!
Sarah from UK
I bought this book with high hopes, having read a few of Mr Herbert's earlier works and I enjoyed them. It seemed to have all the right elements - hauntings, conspiracy, James Herbert's twisted imagination...... Boy was I disappointed! Somehow he managed to take a great premise and then didn't really follow up on any of the potential themes. WHAT exactly was haunting the castle? WHY were people housed at enormous expense other than the financial aspect? WTF were the sex scenes meant to be, other than funny? WHY were the characterisations of the women in this book so hopelessly dated, and who the hell says the word "champers" these days? Why the anti-EU rant, and where the heck did (?saint) Princess Di fit in to all of this and why didn't her force counteract the evil?? It really gave the impression that about 3x the story was written, and then the editors decided to hack great random lumps out of it. NO resolution at all. If the idea of an eagerly Lucan striding out in to the unknown is the abiding image for me then something is is very lacking in this story indeed. Plenty of violence, plenty of gratuitous mutilation/titillation but very little sense of impending horror. Oh, and I kinda guessed that the 'hero' who failed to be particularly heroic beyond getting at least 2 of the other characters killed, would look like a younger/idealised version of the author. No, very disappointing and I could not possibly recommend this book to anyone.
Samuel from United Kingdom
I have just started reading Ash the first five chapters. I think it's going to be an awesome book. I've just finished reading the secrets of crickkley hall it was fantastic. Thank you James Herbert. From Sammy Murray from Smithton just outside Inverness Scotland.uk.
7.8/10 from 5 reviews