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The Secret of Crickley Hall - James Herbert

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Author: James Herbert / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 11 October 2012 / Genre: Horror / Subcategory: Horror & Ghost Stories General / Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Title: The Secret of Crickley Hall / ISBN 13: 9781447231035 / ISBN 10: 1447231035

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      23.02.2014 18:39
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      Overall a good read and I would recommend

      I had never previously heard of James Herbert the author of this book and I probably wouldn't have gone out and bought it. I came to read the book as my dad had bought it for my mum for Christmas a few years back and she hadn't got round to reading it yet so she lent me it knowing she would get it back in a few weeks. I read the book in sections when I had time here and there and I found a lot of the time is was easy to put down which for me is quite disappointing as I like to have books which have me engrossed and racing through the pages to see how the story concludes, but overall the book was a pleasant surprise and I did enjoy reading it.

      The book is based in a place called Hollow Bay (based on the actual village of Lynmouth, Exeter) which suffered a horrendous flood during the Second World War in which 68 people lost their lives (loosely based on the 1952 flood in Lynmouth). Along with the perished were the children and their guardian August Cribben who inhabited Cricklely hall. The children where orphaned and/or evacuees who were bought to Crickley Hall to escape the war. They were left in the custody of Magda and August Cribben the siblings who were unquestionably inappropriate guardians for these poor children.

      Fast forward to 2006 and the Caleigh family moved into Crickley hall while Gabe the husband/father of the family had decided that a break would do the family good after the long disappearance of their only son Cam. They relocated for Gabe's work and brought with them their two daughters Cally and Loren and their dog who immediately took a dislike to Crickley hall.

      From night one it is apparent to the family that they are not the only ones there, when they experience supernatural occurancies such as seeing apparitions, hearing small footprints and it finally developing into vivid and living nightmare experiences.

      The story is quite slow to begin with and picks up pace towards the middle, it is extremely easy to find your imagination flowing and yourself being transported into the story. At times the story can be quite horrifying especially when it details the way in which the children were treated and I definately wouldn't recommend to anyone with a sensitive nature as I found myself wincing at certain parts and I'm far from sensitive natured. I think being a parent perhaps has brought certain parts out which makes me more able to empathise when children are involved in stories. It does get quick dark in places but the end of the book brings that mood to a head and it leaves you feeling relieved and happy with the ending rather than leaving it on a negative note.

      I think the book itself is quite lengthy and it perhaps could have been shortened in places to prevent you from drifting away and become tired with reading. The use of illustrative language throughout is key to this book as you are able to picture the story and create a film like image when reading. I am definately going to try and find the tv program now after reading the book to see if it matches up to my expectations.

      Overall, it is a good horror supernatural story and I will definately think twice about visiting spooky houses in the near future, all joking aside I would recommend this to people who like similar books and I look forward to reading another of James Herbert's work in the not so distant future.

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        24.09.2013 00:41

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        An engaging, classic ghost story....with a twist!

        This is the first James Herbert book that I read and it had me hooked!

        While on the outside it seems like your classic "family moves into haunted house, scary stuff happens" book, it is so much more!

        Our family, the Caleigh's, from London are down in the West Country renting out Crickley Hall following the tragic disappearance of their son. Already shaken and tormented by the tragedy in London, the strange, supernatural events that begin to take place take their toll on the family, particularly the young girls. There are many twists and turns throughout as the pace of the story gradually quickens with a (stereotypical!) stormy night and catastrophic events finally taking place and all of the stories past and present finally unraveling into one climatic finale.

        I truly enjoyed this book and while it is long (634 pages), I found it incredibly easy and quick to read and finished it within a couple of days. Lots of cliffhangers and the flits between past and present make you want to keep reading. Would highly recommend.

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        30.12.2012 00:47
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        Well worth reading

        There are not many James Herbert books that I have read but as my brother is a big fan I took his advice when he recommended The Secret of Crickley Hall. While I don't think this one lives up to the level of either Stephen King or Anne Rice, it is better than some others of his I have read.

        By and large it did not fit in with what I was expecting as when I saw it was about a haunted hall I imagined it being all creaking doors and things that went bump in the night, but that was not the case at all.

        After an issue regarding their son the Caleigh family decide to move to Crickley Hall so as they are away from their normal surroundings for a while. There are feelings of unease from a number of members of the family when they arrive, but they stay and try to find logical reasons for what has happened to them. Water is appearing in the hall and there is something seriously spooky in one of the cupboards so there are good reasons for the feeling of unease.

        It is not as frightening as a lot of horror books I have read and it was good to have a story that was easy to follow and main characters that are all easy to like. There were a few cases when I thought that the actions of some of the many lesser characters where strange, but they did not take away from the story.

        The family is made up of Gabe and Eve Caleigh and their children Loren and Cally and it is Eve that is struggling the most to deal with the problems and wants to stay at the hall. They are a close family but tend to deal with their circumstances in their own way.

        Everything is clearly explained and all the pieces fall into place by the end. A few times I thought I had worked out what had happened - why the water appeared and what was causing the noises.

        Number Of Pages - 634
        Price - £4.99 from Amazon
        Author - James Herbert

        This book did not take me more than three days to read and it is written in a way that is both sympathetic to all of the situations and yet still manages to be graphic enough to allow you to feel sympathy and disgust where it is due. There were one or two cases that I thought I knew how it would end but there were so many pieces of information added that I changed my mind at least twice.

        I liked the ending as it seemed to be the only thing that could happen and it made sure that I was not left thinking "what about this?" or "what happened to XXXX?"

        There was a lot of good in the book and I will give it 4 stars.

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        02.04.2009 03:13
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        If there's something strange in your neighbourhood......move!!

        I have never been a very big fan of James Herbert and, to be frank, have never understood how it is that he is regarded by many as the British Stephen King. He has written his fair share of books that I have enjoyed- Selpuchre, The Rats Trilogy, Fluke, Haunted and Moon all spring to mind- but these are all exceptions and the majority of his work simply leaves me cold.

        Which is a puzzle then, why I am always still inclined to pick up one of his books when I see it! Crickley Hall is one of his latest and, if you look at the other reviews on here, scores quite highly and yet, reading this recently, I found nothing new, nothing inspiring and nothing in fact that I hadn't seen before and seen better done!

        An American engineer and his British-born family rent The Hall to live in whilst he helps with some mechanical faults on a local Wind Turbine. The family have recently, in the last year, lost a son who disappeared from a playground whilst the mother dropped off and the excursion to the country is seen as a chance to recuperate and get away from the memories tied in with their old home. But almost as soon as the family arrive, the dog Chester takes an instant dislike to the Hall and it's grounds and mysterious pale figures are seen in the corner of the eye and strange sounds heard in the dead of night....all a bit Amytiville Horror for my liking especially when the locals warn of a disturbing history at The Hall....

        It turns out that a group of orphans evacuated to Crickley Hall during the war all drowned and that their guardian was less than the benevolent father-figure he made himself out to be. Somehow The Hall appears to have soaked up bad memories, absorbed echoes of it's past, and now seeks to dispel them into this new family's lives. All of this, you would think, would persuade you to up bags and leave asap except the mother begins to feel as though her missing son is trying to reach her through The Hall and alert her to his presence. Anyone who has seen Poltergeist or read anything similar will know how often in horror stories this is seldom the case and that all-too often malevolent spirits like to play tricks on unsuspecting victims but this family seem to have missed out on this vital part of their supernatural education and continue to persist in living in their temporary abode. It all feels a bit too samey samey and a srong enough sense of de ja vu persisted for me to become rapidly disenchanted with this tiresome novel.

        It's not even as though the novel is a short one....this is one of Herbert's longst efforts yet and it feels like it too as an uninspired plot with few new ideas is stretched out and embellished waaaaay toooooo loooonnng! If it had been shorter, I might have stuck with this till the end at least but, as it was, I found myself skipping ahead and skim reading until I reached what I have come to lovingly refer to as "The Scooby-Doo moment" when all is revealed and the villan of the piece unmasked. Even this, for me, felt like a huge disappointment.

        Whether or not Herbert has lost his spark I do not know but increasingly I am finding his back catalogue to be far better written than any of his more recent efforts. Certainly here I get the impression that Herbert was paid for the number of words and his reputation than for quality of writing!

        One to avoid by my vote then....

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          11.02.2009 00:16
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          GREAT READ SIMPLY SUPERB

          The Secret of Crickley Hall.
          ====================
          We begin the book at Crickley Hall and right from the start you can feel that this place is a troubled place, a place of great unhappiness and evil.

          The book initially centres around the family Caleigh. Father Gabe, his wife Eve and their two daughters Cally and Loren. They have an unhappy past, there should have been a son, Cameron, who disappeared one day and has never been seen since.
          This sadness shadows the whole family and they all struggle to cope with it.
          And then they move into Crickley Hall and things go from bad to terrifying!

          Located in the Devils Gorge in Devon and seemingly always shrouded by rain and chilling mists, Crickley Hall is a grim and awful place. Why Gabe would go there with his family is the only fault to the story this book has.
          The house holds dark secrets revolving aound starvation, torture, child abuse and murder.
          Now that the Caleigh family has taken up residence the house comes to life or rather tries to bring death to its inhabitants.
          The above really does no justice to a truly gripping read.
          The writing is simply brilliant and atmospheric. The characters are well rounded and easy to empathise with.
          The story builds and builds and the conclusion is ghastly and sad.
          Read this book it's a cracker and well worth your time.
          Very Highly Recommended.

          Written by James Herbert.

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          24.01.2009 14:51
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          Recommended if you like haunted house reads

          The Caleighs, Eve, Gabe and their 2 daughters Loren and Cally and dog Chester, move into Crickley Hall temporarily as Gabe has a job in the area and he also wanted the family away from their London home as the anniversary of the disappearance of their son approaches. Crickley Hall is a huge, ugly, imposing building situated in a small village in Devon and nobody stays long.

          Once installed strange occurrences begin, banging noises from a cupboard, puddles of water appearing then disappearing in the hallway, strange noises, smells and sights and the cellar door that just won't stay closed no matter how many times they lock it. The dog hates the place and runs away every time the front door is opened, trembling in fear at something the Caleighs initially can't see.

          Percy Judd, gardener and general caretaker, tells them the history of Crickley Hall. In the war 11 evacuees were sent to live there under the guardianship of a brother and sister called Augustus and Magda Cribben. A flood killed them all in the cellar of Crickley Hall except Magda who was found catatonic on the platform of the train station and has never spoken since. Two of the orphan's bodies were never found but the authorities at the time assumed they had been swept away.

          So what is causing the supernatural happenings in Crickley Hall? And what threat lies in wait for the Caleighs?

          Without plot spoiling I can tell you no more than that! The book takes us through the history of the place and what happened on the night of the flood all those years ago. The reason the orphans were not safely out of reach of the water in the attic and why Magda has never uttered a word since the 1940s.

          James Herbert writes what I like to think of as traditional horror. He's one of the few horror writers who can write a book so full of cliches it ought to be predictable and tedious but it isn't, it's intriguing and has you hooked from the start. He sets the scene with eerie surroundings and the kind of bumps in the night you wouldn't want in your house! The characters are likeable, the Caleighs a modern family with the sadness of the disappearance of their son weighing heavily on them.

          The locals are portrayed as yokels if I'm honest and I'm not sure how the residents of Devon feel about that! It seems necesary to the story though to have the village as a slightly backward community which doesn't much like "outsiders".

          Some of the story isn't entirely necessary though and creates lengthy chapters that don't really need to be there. I'm not a fan of superfluous detail and prefer a concise, fast-paced read and if you do too this book isn't going to provide it. It's a gentle but eerie, interesting but a bit slow, story.

          Crickley Hall is a typical haunted house, Percy Judd is a cliche horror story old timer and the Caleighs strangely slow to move out despite being scared witless on many nights. These things all make it typical of horror, the good guys showing very little intelligence whereas in reality you'd just move out and rent somewhere else!

          Oddly though it works to produce a quaint and detailed horror story that cleverly ties all the loose ends and keeps you hooked until the end. I do recommend it if you like this kind of read, I've read the book twice now and will probably read it again when I fancy a ghost story.

          Available from Amazon for £4.89 new or £0.01 plus p&p used.

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            03.08.2008 21:11
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            a must read

            I read the Secret Of Crickley Hall when I was on Cyprus on holiday last year..I have to say that it was absolutley compelling reading and I could not put the book down. The way that it was written was absolutely fantastic... The atmosphere that was created was so real that even sitting in a very hot bar in Cyprus i felt as though I was really at Critchley Hall. parts of it were very disturbing as the horrors that occured at Critchley Hall were gradually unravelled. The goings on made my stomach turn and shivers run down my spine even in that hot sunshine... It was very distrubibg and left a great impression on me...It had a great twist at the end..After i had finished the book I felt really 'lost' as I didn't know what to do..I wanted to read something by James Herbert again but unfortunatley could not find any for sale in Cyprus.

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            03.08.2008 19:22
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            If your a fan of Stephen king then I would highly recommed reading this Book.

            I had this book bought for me as a gift, and as soon as I started to read it I couldn't put it down and neither could the three other people I have lent it too so far.

            The story seems to be set in a very predictable haunted house scenario but what unfolds throughout the book is beyond belief.
            I have read many a haunted house novel, but this one seemed to have captured me like no other book has.

            Definitely not one for the faint hearted as it does become quite gory in places but this only sets the scene for one of the most amazing ghost stories ever told. There is a romantic twist to this story too which had me in tears towards the end of the book.
            The secret of Crickley Hall seems to have everything you would want in a haunted novel.

            I would recommend this book to anyone even those who are not as hooked on horror as I am
            Really need to see a film version next..........

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              26.07.2008 20:12
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              So looking forward to this I bought it in hardback

              James Herbert is definitely back on form with this tale, after this disappointment of "Once". I thorougly enjoyed this tale - a real honest to god horror story in every meaning of the phrase. This reminded me of just how much I loved James Herbert's work and how the psychological aspect of his tales were just as terrifying as the bloody and gory parts. He has definitely grown so much as a writer since his spatter gore fest days of "The Rats" and "The Fog" but the legacy is still there, especially in this tale of the strange goings on at Crickley Hall and the family who have moved there to try and escape from the anniversary of a family tragedy. But sometimes the worst thing you can do is run and hide from these things and Crickley hall was definitely not the best place for this emotionally scarred family to go. Good fun from the British Master of horror. Maybe my second favourite horror writer after Stephen King.

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              11.07.2008 13:52
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              A terrible book

              After around twenty years I decided to read another James Herbert book as the last I had read scared me quite a bit. But after seeing my daughters reading them I decided I might be old enough to read one and not be scared so I borrowed their book The Secret of Crickley Hall and prepared myself to be scared.

              Essentially this book is a haunted house ghost story and starts off well with a prologue of scared children hearing a smacking sound getting closer and closer to them. Then the actual story starts with a young family who have moved into Crickley Hall, a large manor in the countryside. Its only after a couple of nights sleeping there that strange things start happening, noises in the night, lights seen by their daughter and a strange essence around the house that something is not quite right.

              After reading the first couple of chapters I had high hopes for this novel yet it sincerely disappointed me. The book just seemed to be one big cliché of haunted house novels and all the supposed twists and turns in the story were incredibly predictable. I liked James Herbert and thought his novels always seemed so original yet this just seemed as if he had given up and just wanted to produce a quickie novel.

              The writing was quite poor and every part of the story seemed to have been done about a million times before. Nothing was new in this book, even the characters felt 2-dimensional and I couldn't quite get to know them and care like you should when read a book. The ending was absolute rubbish and extremely predictable, I really felt as if I had just wasted a few hours of my life that I wouldn't get back. It didn't help that it is 400 pages long and let me tell you, it feels as if every page was torture. I would have given up but I can't start a book and not finish it, yet this book was a close start to ending that vow.

              Overall I thought this book was utter rubbish and completely clichéd and predictable. I would have expected more from James Herbert as my daughters love his other novels however this one just annoyed me deeply. Overall I would not recommend this book unless you have never seen a film or read a book about a haunted house. I wouldn't even pay 50p for this book, but you might be able to get it for that in a charity shop.

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                12.06.2008 21:40
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                A very good example of a James Herbert novel.

                My Uncle last week borrowed me 'The secret of Crickley Hall' by James Herbert. I do like James Herbert novels on the whole but I didn't find the title of this one very appealing, my Uncle convinced me to read it as it is a good read so what did I have to lose?

                At the beginning of the book it takes you back in time with a description of children hiding from someone and then springs you forward to present day. In the first few chapters we are introduced to the main characters the Caleighs who are moving into Crickley Hall in Devon. The move is meant to help them get through the first anniversary of the disappearance of their 5 year old son Cam.

                James Herbert uses great descriptive techniques for the Hall so you can sense the depression it holds as you read.

                Many strange things begin to happen immediately with the cellar door unlocking itself, puddles appearing from nowhere, the sound of children running in the attic and the sight of a naked man! Will the Caleigh family stick around long enough to unlock the secrets held in this creepy old house?

                The book is steadily paced throughout and although a horror I didn't find it scary to read at all, a little disgusted in parts but never scared!

                There are plenty of twists and turns that keep you glued to the pages as the secret of Crickley Hall begins to unravel.

                The sub plot of the missing 5 year old I found a little bit disappointing as it didn't really add much value to the story, I thought that maybe there could of been more to it almost than what there was.

                This is by no means a fast paced story yet I didn't get bored and managed the read all 633 pages within 3 days and I felt satisfied with the ending once I had finished it.

                I would recommend anyone to give this book a go, even if it is something you might not usually read as I think anyone can appreciate how well written this novel is.

                The RRP on the paper back version that I read is £6.99.

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                  02.05.2008 19:24
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                  You will enjoy this book.

                  The Secret of Crickley Hall.

                  James Herbert.

                  When writing a book review I sometimes put to much plot, so this time I am going to try and get the balance right with this review.

                  I bought this book a while back, picked it up and put it down. I thought it would be a ghost story that I wouldnt like. Well I was right and I was wrong.
                  Whilst it is a ghost story, it is in a class of its own. An extrodinary written ghost story which grips you from the first pages and doesn't let go until the last full stop.
                  Oh, and I was wrong, I loved the book !

                  The book begins with Herberts usual fantastic discriptive talents, setting Crickley Hall clearly in the readers mind.
                  The narrative between the characters is superbly written and Herbert gives various chapters to each character showing the story from their points of view.
                  The pace of the book is not racey but that doesn't distract from the creeping horror hidden within the house and within the story.

                  It is a Friday in late October and Gabe Caleigh (an American) his wife Eve and their 2 daughters 5yr old Cally and 12yr old Loren (along with their dog, Chester) are moving into Crickley Hall.
                  They are moving here as a new start after the disappearance of their 5yr old son, Cameron.
                  Crickley Hall, a small manor house hidden away in a beautiful tree lined Gorge named 'Devils Cleave', located in Devon.
                  It has a Well in the Cellar which taps directly into the river running beneath the house.

                  The family meet Percy, the aged gardener and some History of the hall is revealed.
                  The following day during a pub lunch the landlord reveals some 'local legends'.
                  And the discovery that 11 children had died at crickley hall during the great flood of 1943. Only 9 bodies had ever been recovered and buried. 2 of the childrens bodies had never been found, oooohhh....

                  During the first few nights there are several ghostlg goings on,
                  A swing movinq whilst there is not a breath of wind.
                  A childs whimpering from an empty cupboard.
                  Mysterious watery footprints up the stairs.
                  Lots of children moving about up in the attic/classroom.
                  During the war the children had been evacuated from the cities and housed in Crickley Hall.

                  I won't continue with the plot of the book because this is one......
                  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND !!!
                  The book builds and builds to a fantastic and frightening conclusion.

                  CAST:

                  Gabe.
                  Cocky Mechanical Engineer who loves to tinker with anything mechanical. Came to the UK some 16 yrs ago, married for 13 years to Eve.

                  Eve.
                  Mother and ex freelance writer.

                  Loren.
                  Aged 12, eldest daughter.

                  Cally. (Catherine)
                  Aged 5, youngest daughter.

                  Cameron.
                  Missing son who disappeared a year ago when he was only 5 yrs old.

                  Chester.
                  Family pet and mongrel dog who takes an instant dislike to the house.

                  Percy Judd.
                  Crickley Halls gardener and handyman.

                  Nancy Linnet.
                  Girl friend of Percy and one time school teacher at crickley hall.

                  Charles Crickley.
                  Builder of Crickley Hall.

                  Sam Pennelly.
                  Landlord of the local pub which he runs with his wife Vera and daughter Frannie.

                  Ms T Longmarsh.
                  Proprieter of local general shop.

                  D I Michael.
                  Detective Inspector in charge of finding the missing Cameron.

                  Reverend Andrew Trevellick.
                  The Vicar of The church of St Mark.

                  Augustus Theophilus Cribben.
                  Alonq with his sister Magda, he is the 11 childrens guardians at Crickley hall.

                  Seraphina Blaney.
                  School bully.

                  Frank Mulley.
                  Bus driver.

                  And many more lugubrious characters.

                  More Opinions -
                  I am by no means a fan of Horror, I am more a Frank Herbert reader than James Herbert.
                  But this book is simply a Cracker!
                  The hardback book has 600 paqes, its a Big read and every page is a delight.
                  You won't be disappointed.
                  I Couldn't put it down !!!

                  Last year my surprise read was 'CELL' by Stephen King, a fantastic book but this year, up til now, it's Crickley Hall.

                  Greg.

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                    01.12.2007 17:30
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                    Compelling reading, but not a masterpiece

                    The Caleighs - mother and father Eve and Gabriel, and daughters Loren and Cally - have experienced a family tragedy and as the anniversary of the tragedy is fast approaching, Gabriel decides to move them temporarily out of London to a rural location. However, on arrival, none of them take to their new home, Crickley Hall, which seems unwelcoming. Their dog hates it so much he runs away. And then the strange happenings begin - unexplained noises in the night, flashes of white, puddles and doors opening of their own accord. Yet the Caleighs stay, for reasons that only they can explain. Could the evil that they feel have something to do with the history of Crickley Hall, where eleven children were reportedly drowned? Or is the reason closer to home?

                    At the centre of our story are the Caleighs, who are still grieving from a loss in the family. This sadness, although tragic, does help the reader to identify with the family. The characterisation is not particularly deep, but we do get to find out how the dynamics of the family have changed since the tragedy and this is enough to persuade the reader to root for them. During the course of the book, other characters are slowly fed into the mix, each bringing with them a part of the story that we need to know in order to fully understand what is going on. There is very much a sense of black and white, in that each character is either good or bad, without anything in between. We are also taught that good always triumphs over evil whether in this world or the next. The author just about gets away with this, but he does come across as moralising unnecessarily at times.

                    This is a ghost story rather than a horror - although there are some pretty scary happenings at times, it is more of a build-up of suspense and fear of the unexpected that frightens. I thought the author told the story very well. We are fed bits and pieces of information, just enough to keep the reader intrigued and wanting to keep turning the pages. At the same time, we are given an insight into the family as they go about their everyday lives. This provides a constant switch from the ghostly to reality so that we are never quite sure what is real and what is not - the weird happenings can nearly always be explained away by something concrete, but then something else happens which seems inexplicable and the thought process starts all over again.

                    Another factor that draws the reader in is the author's tendency to skip between characters, so that one chapter is about Eve and Cally and the happenings at Crickley Hall and the next is about Gabe and something that he has experienced outside of the Hall. This is a great way of encouraging the reader to keep reading - I would always plan to read just a chapter or two, then realise I'd read about ten in one go.

                    I don't believe in the spiritual world myself, and although it is necessary to enter this world to a certain extent in order to follow the book, it is never forced on the reader and I was quite comfortable reading about it. As with any thriller though, it is not suitable for the very young or easily impressionable - there are some scenes that involve the harming of children which are particularly unpleasant.

                    There was only really one thing that I didn't like about this book and that was in the section where we begin to find out the reason for all the strange happenings at Crickley Hall and one of the people involved goes to visit the only other person who knows what went on. As the latter plays dumb, the story is told in a form of a monologue - you remember what we did, I did this, you did that...This seems very forced and really ruined the flow of the book for me. I understand why the author did it, but it could have been avoided and a little more thought into ways around it would have made the book stronger for me.

                    Although I enjoy psychological thriller films, I don't often read books in the same genre and I haven't read anything by this author. However, something about this particular book intrigued me and I decided to give it a go. And I'm glad I did. This is a long book, but makes compelling reading and I found myself galloping through it, especially towards the end when I was dying to find out what was going to happen. I class a superb book as one that can transport me into another world; this one didn't do that, but it wasn't far off. Recommended, especially if you aren't particularly familiar with this genre.

                    The book is available from play.com for £5.49, although it is worth looking out for deals on other sites. Published by Pan Macmillan, it has 400 pages. ISBN: 9780330411684.

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                      12.04.2007 21:47
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                      HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

                      Gabe and Eve Caleigh, along with their two daughters, Loren and Cally, rent the old and eerie Crickley Hall for a while so Gabe can work on a project in nearby Ilfracombe, Devon. The timing of the move coincides with the pending anniversary of their five-year-old son’s disappearance from the park a year ago. Gabe feels it will help Eve to get through this difficult period by being away from their normal living environment in London.

                      However, Crickley Hall, a large old house once used by Augustus Cribben and his sister Magda, to look after and educate eleven orphaned evacuees from London, welcomes them in an entirely different manner than had been expected. Chester, the family dog, is scared rigid from the second they arrive and none of the other’s feels too much at home either.

                      With it’s huge cavernous rooms and gloomy interior, it allows the mind to play tricks on you and make you hear footsteps where there are none, or hear banging inside cupboard doors, or find locked cellar doors open and puddles in the grand hallway…….or does the mind have nothing to do with it.



                      This is James Herbert’s latest offering and what an offering it is. The goose bumps rose on my skin while I wrote the details above and this is the effect this book had had on me all the way through. It is a genuine chiller of a story and in my honest opinion is the book that has scared me the most since I began reading in this genre years ago. Other books have given me temporary chills, like The Lake by Richard Laymon, but this continuously had me shivering and the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck rose and fell with scary regularity.

                      The way Herbert managed to reveal the historical story was brilliant. You found out bits and pieces through various different characters, like Percy, the old gardener who had been taking care of the lawns since before the World War in 1943. He witnessed a lot of history in this old house and loved and lost his one true love as well. He remained dedicated to the work though and proved to be a helpful and trustworthy friend to Gabe and Eve. Another conduit was Lili Peel, a psychic who Eve contacts to try and help her find her lost son. Lili finds out a lot more than she had bargained for when she agrees to help Eve and you are let in to some very raw and difficult insights to the house’s past.

                      This is something that perhaps made this book stand out for me from other books in the same genre, and that is the inclusion of children as part of the main story line. Ghosts and children are always a combination that scares me when it comes to film and I have found out that it is no exception with the written word. Of course it could be Herbert’s fantastic story telling abilities that captured the fear for me and held it there for the duration but although it did genuinely give me the creeps, I had to keep on reading. Some of the chapters are hard to read about even though you know they are fiction, especially the descriptions of one of the orphans evacuated to Crickley Hall who was persecuted simply for being a Jew. It was compelling and totally engrosses you in the plot.

                      Augustus Cribben, one of the major characters here was actually terrifying. With plunges into sadomasochism and self-harming he opened a new channel of fear for me that I had not read about before. I would hate to think that anything like this happened in real life in World War 2, although I am sure it was entirely possible, but the events just seemed so horrendous that it was almost beyond comprehension, although this does not mean it was unbelievable.

                      One thing I did find annoying was the way Herbert quite often tried to write someone’s response in the way they would have said it in Devon. Coming from the South East I quite often had to re-read these sentences out loud so I could understand what he was trying to have them convey. Sometimes he would describe the sentence in correct language and then repeat it as it was said. This was even more frustrating, although I realise he was trying to add character and realism to the conversation. I did also find he repeated particular feelings continuously as well, for example the dark shadows of Crickley Hall seemed to press against the lights rather than the lights pressing against the darkness. This is a great way of relating the creepy feeling of the shadowy house and is exceptionally descriptive but when you have read it half a dozen times, just worded slightly differently it loses some of its appeal.

                      However for the niggly bits there is a whole book full of fantastic fiction and a story that will really grip you and not let go till the crescendo at the end. Most chiller/horror books end with a high note but this really did explode into an extraordinary finale, which was just perfect. It kept with the theme of the book and didn’t let me down as I have found before. It left me satisfied and crying out for more at the same time.

                      I honestly think this is the best book I have read so far this year and Herbert is now high on my list of favourite authors.

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                        08.02.2007 19:02
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                        Overview of "The Secret of Crickley Hall"

                        It had been a while since I’d read any of James Herbert’s stuff. Having read every single book he’s ever written, it had been too long in between volumes. So when “The Secret of Crickley Hall” was published last year, I was excited about getting my mitts on the book. As it turned out, I was given the hardback version as a Christmas present and duly read it in a couple of weeks. For anyone that hasn’t encountered JH before, he is the critically acclaimed number one best-selling horror fiction writer in Britain. From his first book “The Rats” published in 1974, through a further 21 best selling novels including “Sepulchre”, “The Magic Cottage” and “Haunted”, James Herbert’s work has also been reproduced in movies whilst building a massive readership spread across the globe.

                        The Caleighs are a family in strife. Having lost their son, Cameron, to a possible abduction, they seek sanctuary in the wilds of North Devon, away from the scene of their recent misery in Central London. When Gabe Caleigh - an Anglophile American engineer - is offered a job based on a project in Hollow Bay, he rents an old house outside the village called Crickley Hall. Along with his daughters Cally and Loren as well as wife Eve together with their dog, Chester, the family adopt the shambling residence with an air of unspoken foreboding and when they start to they hear the sound of children running upstairs and a strange shuffling noise in the cellar, they soon realise that there is something strange and untold about Crickley Hall and its tragic past.

                        The biggest danger with Herbert’s latest book is of falling into cliché. What with haunted houses, ephemeral spirits and psychic mediums with skeletons in their recent past, all the ingredients are present for a run-of-the-mill ghost story that’s been done a million times before. There’s no doubting that there is a element of deja-vu around some of the elements at work in the book. There is often murky light at Crickley Hall, supplanted by an oppressive atmosphere and a constantly opening cellar door. There are storms, lightening, thunder and all to make it all very Addams Family at times although we do stop short of a macabre butler and Dickensian door bell.

                        I was surprised by the gentle build up and a bit taken aback that the author didn’t start with a grandstand opening and use the rest of the story as a progressive build up to the events that mark the building out as haunted, pulling together the sinister events from the wartime flood and assailing the reader with an even bigger finale. Still, he didn’t and, as a matter of fact, it didn’t make that much difference given the ever increasing pace and tension of the closing chapters which results in an explosive finale. Also on the debit side, the book is very long at 600 pages and the first few chapters are scene setters with no big, apocryphal set pieces. Maybe the asides involving the rough and tumble adventures of the kids at the local school are a bit a la Grange Hill although this does give a nice link to a great scene where the local bullies get their comeuppance in a nicely crafted sequence at a deserted Crickley Hall.

                        All of Herbert’s writing talents are showcased in this book. He draws his pen pictures of the characters astutely, bringing them alive for the reader and employs his trademark cliffhanger finishes to each chapter in an increasingly effective manner as the plot thickens. The writer knows how to crank the tension up and the related sub-plots of the catastrophic events of 1943 are carefully crafted for effect, interwoven with the sorrowful tales of Lili the medium and the unraveling of the circumstances surrounding Cam’s disappearance and possible abduction. It’s this last sub-plot that left a lump in my throat at the thought of a little boy being parted from his mother when she’d fallen asleep on a park bench due to overwork and the stress and angst it caused for the whole family, not knowing what happened to him all this time. James Herbert is a very skilful writer. Writing in the third person and from various points of view, he uses imaginative descriptions of Devon’s beautiful countryside, italicized flashbacks to bring the monstrous events of the past to life and paces the story so that it’s virtually impossible to put the book down from the half way point.

                        As ever, his monsters are graphic, their deeds truly horrific and one particular incident involving the arch villain of the piece and a little boy in his charge made me wince and may take the book beyond the pale for some. In fact, that whole monstrous entourage of villainous and completely deranged guardians supposedly caring for evacuated orphans is fantastically imagined and expertly executed. Quite where the author conjures up some of his unbridled horror from is anyone’s guess and that it frequently involves a threat to young children means that care should be taken by those choosing to read this particular effort. Just as his monsters seem real, the protagonists engender both empathy and sympathy from the reader in both the actions and thoughts as the story plays out. Gabe is the archetypal hero, Eve the ponderous mother suspended in limbo by the uncertainty of the fate of her son. Both daughters get their parts to play in their interactions with the locals whilst Percy the gardener provides the link with past.

                        All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Secret of Crickley Hall”. It’s well and truly in the horror/fantasy genre with the accent on horror and should only be read by adults given the graphic nature of some of the violence in the story. Chapters are mostly brief, often between six and a dozen pages and titled to give a hint as to what is to come. Fans of Herbert’s work will be pleased with this one and looking forward to his next tome already. I’d class myself as one of those waiting for the next installment in the Herbert horror franchise and will be making another purchase from Britain’s undoubted king of horror fiction.

                        Thanks for reading

                        Mara

                        Notes
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                        Pages: 600
                        ISBN 1-4050-0520-3
                        Published by Macmillan www.panmacmillan.com
                        RRP: £17.99 Available at Amazon from £10.78. Paperback out from 4th May 2007
                        More info about James Herbert at http://www.james-herbert.co.uk

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                        The Caleighs have had a terrible year...They need time and space, while they await the news they dread. Gabe has brought his wife, Eve, and daughters, Loren and Cally, down to Devon, to the peaceful seaside village of Hollow Bay. He can work and Eve and the kids can have some peace and quiet and perhaps they can try, as a family, to come to terms with what's happened to them...Crickley Hall is an unusually large house on the outskirts of the village at the bottom of Devil's Cleave, a massive tree-lined gorge - the stuff of local legend. A river flows past the front garden. It's perfect for them...if it a bit gloomy. And Chester, their dog, seems really spooked at being away from home. And old houses do make sounds. And it's constantly cold. And, even though they shut the cellar door every night, it's always open again in morning...The Secret of Crickley Hall is James Herbert's finest novel to date. It explores the darker, more obtuse territories of evil and the supernatural. With brooding menace and rising tension, he masterfully and relentlessly draws the reader through to the ultimate revelation - one that will stay to chill the mind long after the book has been laid aside.