Title: The Ghosts of Sleath

Author: James Herbert

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 410

Rating: 3.5/5

This is the second David Ash book, and the good news is that it feels much more coherent than the first book, Haunted. That one was a novella that didn’t really hold up on its own and felt much more like an unfinished novel than a fully-fledged story.

The Ghosts of Sleath is much more like a fully realised product, although there were still a few things that I didn’t like about it. Structure-wise, though, it works a lot better as a story, but the bad news is that you’re still going to want to read Haunted first because the books do work best if you go through them chronologically. It’s not that they’re necessarily direct sequels, but there are conversations in each book that would spoil the previous ones if you hadn’t read them.

One of the things that I did like about this was the setting. It isn’t a haunted house story, it’s a haunted village story – and that haunted village, while fictional, is in the middle of the Chiltern Hills. It’s basically set within about a five-mile radius of where I live, and so I feel as though I know Sleath. I’ve probably been there in search of charity shops.

Because there’s more room for Herbert to play in terms of the length of the novel, it also means that there are more things to like about this. He’s able to play with the backstory and to tie it into the Hellfire Club and Sir Francis Dashwood, both of which are from the town I live in, High Wycombe. I even wrote about both of those myself in my short story A Stone’s Throw for the Local Haunts anthology, which was all about local ghost and horror stories.

All in all, I did think the Ghosts of Sleath was a pretty good read and I’m glad that I picked it up, but I think it struggled a little bit because of how uninspired I thought Haunted was. I also find that David Ash isn’t a particularly interesting protagonist. There are too many clichés going on, like the jaded investigator with a drinking problem. And even though this book takes things a little further, it still feels kind of formulaic. By the time I reached the end, I was ready to move on. Yeah.

Learn more about The Ghosts of Sleath.