I have a special place in my heart for quiet, suspenseful tales that slowly build momentum. I’m going at a nice pace and then all of a sudden I can’t put the book down… and when did my heart start racing… and how is it 2am?!? I haven’t read one in awhile (The Shining was the last) and was hoping Slade House would fill the void.
First off, this isn’t American Horror Story’s Murder House, where the scares come from creepy and gory imagery. David Mitchell is your quintessential English writer and his scary story is classy through and through. Probably to a fault. The set-up is there with a great story, but the building of suspense did not lead to a solid pay-off.
Let’s start with the positives. The story has great and compelling ideas. Slade House is only open once every nine years to invited guests. The book is comprised of five short stories that are all nine years apart. I love the long spans of time and how large the story feels. Many generations are affected by the Slade House.
Mitchell also nailed the atmosphere and throughout the first four stories I got the subtle off-center creepy vibe.
Sadly, even with all this great material the overall story did not come together for me, and that’s mostly due to the execution of exposition. The first 90% of each short story was great, and then everything just… blah. The protagonist would always ultimately come face-to-face with the antagonists and then the antagonist would just exposition dump. Gosh, it felt like a hammy movie where the bad guy gives a long-winded monologue about his motives.
I just expected more from Mitchell to find a more elegant way to incorporate the backstory. And my frustration didn’t end there.
The fourth story is heavy in backstory, which I wouldn’t have minded, but since we just had three exposition dumps it felt repetitive. If David Mitchell just gave us crumbs in the first three stories, let us fill in the blanks, then I think the fourth story would have felt fresher, which is a bummer because I like all the twists in the fourth story.
This leads me to the fifth story. After learning all the secrets in the last four stories, I didn’t find the last story compelling. The ‘twist’ just made me roll my eyes. And because the ending wasn’t strong, the mistakes throughout were highlighted and I couldn’t easily set them aside.
Overall the novel had good ideas and four out of the five short stories worked for me. It was that was that last story that just knocked the whole experience down.
Sidenote: After finishing Slade House I was informed that the novel is a companion piece to The Bone Clocks (GRRRRR!!!!). I feel like my assessment still stands because my issues stem from execution rather than story. I plan on reading The Bone Clocks in the near future and I will definitely come back to Slade House.