Synopsis: Moving from the heart of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion – Ollie is filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, he has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and he sees Cold Hill House, with its acres of land, as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, the perfect base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being separated from her friends.
Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents of the house. A friend of Jade’s is the first to see the spectral woman, standing behind her as the girls talk on FaceTime. Then there are more sightings, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. As the haunting becomes more malevolent and the house itself begins to turn on the Harcourts, the terrified family discover Cold Hill House’s dark history, and the horrible truth of what it could mean for them . . .
Holly: The House on Cold Hill is Peter James’ first horror novel in over 20 years. He is best known for his crime writing. This was the first novel I had read by him & although it didn’t quite capture me the way I had hoped, I am still interested in checking out the Roy Grace series that everyone seems to rave about at some point!
This begins with a couple & their daughter moving from the city to the countryside. They buy a huge mansion, one that needs extensive work. They start losing funds with all the work it needs, as well as their minds. Because, well, there is something else besides remodeling going on in the house.
Corey: I won’t lie, there were at least a couple parts that gave me the creeps. I live in a really old house (not as old as the one in this book, but still pretty old). So that creepy don’t-go-in-the-basement vibe resonated with me a bit. That said, there are some giants in the haunted house novel category, and this one doesn’t quite live up to the standards set by people like Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House) or Richard Matheson (Hell House). The Harcourt family grew on me over the course of the story, and I feel like the dialogue-heavy portions of the book were its strongest. But there was a repetitive quality to the events in The House on Cold Hill that I could’ve done without.
Holly: I actually felt quite differently in those regards! I didn’t really feel one way or another for the characters. They seemed pretty basic to me, so I didn’t get a good grasp on their inner workings. Since this was more of a character study than an outright thriller, I expected more from them. MAKE ME FEEL SOME EMOTION, DAMNIT!
There are some good things about this novel, but unfortunately quite a few not so great things, too. The horror tropes are strong with this one!
It was a rather unimaginative ghost story. I realize I am pretty impossible to scare, but damn. The only thing scary was the overuse of product placement.
Corey: There was an inordinate amount of name brand items in this book, for sure. It was a little unusual. And I think that speaks to one of the other issues I had, which was the overabundance of detail. I think a lot of the story felt bogged down by really detailed descriptions. I mean, on the whole, I think this book is solidly written. I just wish it was maybe a bit leaner on details, in favor of more interaction between some of the characters.
Holly: Yes! The overt attention to detail took away from the characters & made them feel minor. I also think that we needed some more background story. The writing delved into inconsequential details, yet left some plot threads untied. In saying that, this certainly wasn’t badly written. It’s clear there is a reason why Peter James has been around for as long as he has.
This was a quick read & played on the “stressed couple dumping loads into a money pit & can’t afford to give up on it no matter what happens” scenario well.
Corey: It’s worth mentioning at this point that, early in the book, I was thinking “Wow, it’s like a cross between The Money Pit and a haunted house novel!”….and then one of the characters actually references The Money Pit! I had a good laugh over that.
Holly: While this failed to bring anything new to the supernatural genre, the roof didn’t completely crumble. This light mystery had some entertaining parts throughout, it is made more current with the technology angle & it had a solid foundation. Where it started to deteriorate is in the structure of the story. There were a few too many plot holes, yet many descriptive details for items which were inconsequential to the overall story & the ending didn’t seem to necessarily fit. Not a bad showing, but one that requires a little too much work when there are better options out there!
The Grimdragons Rating: 3 malevolent spirits out of 5
Special thanks to Peter James and his assistant Dani for getting these books into our hands!!