Slade House ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
Slade House is a horror/mystery/fantasy novel by English novelist David Mitchell. There’s something very peculiar about the house in Slade House. To the casual observer, it doesn’t even exist in this “small English city.” The place where the house is (or was), however, has been the scene of several unexplained disappearances. On the last Friday in October in 1979, a middle-aged woman, Mrs. Bishop, and her adolescent son, Nathan, disappear without a trace. Then, nine years later, on the last Friday in October in 1988, a young, divorced policeman named Inspector Detective Gordon Edmonds disappears. Then, nine years later, in 1997, it’s an unhappy, overweight college girl named Sally Timms (along with several “friends” who are exploring psychic phenomena). In 2006, it’s Sally Timms’ lesbian, journalist sister, Freya Timms, who is trying to uncover some clues into the disappearance of her sister. We learn that all these people who vanished have something in common: they are all “Engifteds,” meaning they have a special “sense” that allows them to see beyond the veil of the unknown.
Gradually we learn the secret of the house, which I won’t give away too much here. There are two “proprietors” of the house and they are twins, Jonah and Norah Grayer, who are well over a hundred years old. They are “soul vampires,” but they won’t be satisfied with just any souls—only the souls of the rare people who are the “Engifteds” will do.
The secret of the house is ingenious: the real house that sat on the site was destroyed by German bombs in World War II. The “house” of Jonah and Norah Grayer exists in what is called an “orison,” which is a “reality bubble.” The people whom Jonah and Norah choose to come to them are able to find the “aperture” in the brick wall in the alleyway; the aperture, a small iron door, is a “portal” into the orison in which the house exists. Each of those lured in have (or think they have) a special reason for wanting to get in. Once inside, they are tricked into eating or drinking a substance called “banjax” that will make it easy for Jonah and Norah to extract their souls. (They must have a soul every nine years to continue to exist.)
Slade House is a fascinating, compulsively readable novel, spare and concise in its 238 pages. It’s also smart and ingenious, not quite like anything I ever read before—a new twist on the traditional haunted house story. Now, if somebody will just make a quality movie out of it that’s as intelligent as the book, that’s a movie I would certainly pay money to see. Just don’t put Sylvester Stallone in it.
Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp