Title: The Secret of Cold Hill

Author: Peter James

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 392

Rating: 4/5

This is basically your bog standard haunted house story, and I particularly enjoyed it coming hot on the heels of James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall. What is it with haunted house stories including the word “secret” in them?

The Secret of Cold Hill is actually the follow-up to James’ earlier book, The House On Cold Hill, which I was sent an ARC copy of by the publishers. James is a bestselling author who’s pretty approachable on social media. He’s shared a photo of my cat with some of his books, he’s replied to a few of my comments on his YouTube channel, and he even let me send him a copy of my first cosy mystery novel, Driven.

I liked the first book, but I think I enjoyed this one a little more. It’s just some badass supernatural horror with a lot of bleakness to it, and there were also one or two moments where he reminded me of Herbert because they’re both great at writing gore scenes. There was a particular scene set on a building site that was written in a way that reminded me of some of the deaths in Herbert’s books, perhaps most notably a death in the novel Portent where someone was sheared in half by a falling pane of glass.

But it’s not fair to compare James to Herbert, because while there are passing similarities, they both hold up on their own. It’s pretty exciting to see James taking on more traditional horror like this because he’s mostly thought of as a crime author because of his Roy Grace books. The Secret of Cold Hill shows that he’s far more versatile than that.

And so what else is there to say? It was just a satisfying read, a decent little ghost story that hit the sweet spot and left me longing for more, although I don’t know if James can continue the series. It’s not that he didn’t leave himself any leeway, it’s just that it would stretch the suspension of disbelief to have more people moving into a place that’s quite clearly haunted.

In fact, I did wonder why the main characters didn’t just leave. But hey-ho.

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