What it’s about: Every nine years on the last Saturday in October, a mysterious iron door appears in the wall of Slade Alley. If you open it–and you should hope you don’t–you’ll find yourself in an impossible garden looking at the back of Slade House at a place where it absolutely cannot be. And if you venture further in, you’ll soon realize that Slade House is not at all what it seems.
Why I liked it: This is a short book, structured like a set of Chinese nesting boxes. Each story, set nine years apart, repeats and builds on the previous one. Mitchell has made an agreeably creepy contribution to the haunted house genre with Slade House, which began as a story told in a series of tweets. There are quite a lot of nice touches that startle and make us feel uneasy, the portraits on the walls being one of my favorites. Even more unsettling is how Mitchell plays with reality, keeping both his characters and us readers feeling off kilter, unable to trust what we are reading. I raced through the first three sections, wanting to know what came next.
Nitpicks: And here is where I feel Mitchell may have let us down somewhat. The fourth section, although it keeps up the pattern, explains perhaps too much what is going on in Slade House, at least for this reader, who prefers her ghost stories to remain uncomfortably ambiguous. And if you have already read The Bone Clocks, you will know as soon as the final section starts how things are going to go down. (I think Slade House would be more enjoyable if you read it before The Bone Clocks.) Uber-fans of the Horologists may not mind that, but I was wishing Mitchell had taken us somewhere less expected, instead of revisiting old territory.
You might like it if: Despite these disappointments, Mitchell’s writing is as good as ever, and fans of haunted house stories probably should not miss this one.