Slade House by David Mitchell

Book Score: 2

David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks, and many others, is a very good writer. And his latest, Slade House, has its moments. Sadly, it is only three-fifths of a good book.

Thumbnail summary: twin brother and sister who are “soul vampires” must feed upon an Engifted once every nine years to maintain their immortality. Each section of the book is through the eyes of one such Engifted as they fall under the spell of Slade House and the twins’ operandi.

First, the good. This is an accessible book and a quick read, and the character sketches of the first three victims are interesting. The third victim, a college student named Sally Timms, is the highlight of the book, as you genuinely feel for her plight. It would have been nice to read an entire story from her perspective.

The writing also sparkles at times. When discussing the issue of loss and closure, one character remarks that “Sometimes I envy the weeping parents of the definitely dead you see on TV. Grief is an amputation, but hope is incurable hemophilia: you bleed and bleed and bleed.”

But no amount of clever turns of phrase can breath life into the long bits of expository dialogue that are used to fill in the gaps in the fourth and fifth act. And yet for all the explaining, the final resolution still comes out of nowhere, and not in a good way.

But Mitchell’s worst sin is that, for a ghost story, it just isn’t all that scary. This isn’t as noticeable in the first three acts, when the characters are interesting. But it becomes more obvious as the story grinds to a conclusion, and leaves the reader wondering what happened to the good book he started reading just a few days before.


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