Slade House

by David Mitchell

Reviewed by SA

Seeing as how October is a good month for spooky things, I think it’s a good time to tell you a little about Slade House, and what you’re getting yourself into in picking up David Mitchell’s latest novel. I fully recommend a comfy chair, and a dimly lit room, maybe with a flickering candle for effect, because this book will catch you, draw you in, and keep your heart racing until the end.


From “one of the most electric writers alive” (The Boston Globe) comes a taut, intricately woven, spine-chilling, reality-warping novel. Set across five decades, beginning in 1979 and coming to its astonishing conclusion on October 31, 2015, Slade House invites readers to experience yet again David Mitchell’s extraordinary imagination.

I’ll try to sum it up for you, without giving anything away: a house that really shouldn’t fit where it is; a strange invitation, where dreams seemingly come true; you’re starting to get suspicious that something is wrong, something isn’t quite normal… and by then, it’s too late.

This novel is incredibly short, something I did not expect coming from the author of “Cloud Atlas.” I had absolutely loved that novel, which is when I jumped when an ARC for Slade House became available. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was certainly amazed. Like Mitchell’s other novels, at least those that I’ve read, the plot spans decades, stretching across time, and is incredibly complex.

However, this novel repeats the same formula five times: five different people, one every 9 years, starting in 1979, and a trip to the Slade House, a house that doesn’t seem to exist any other time of the decade. Yet, even so, it doesn’t seem to feel repetitive: the author manages to make you relate to the character who you’re now following, even cheer for them, hope that they can get out. Slowly you begin to wonder what’s real and what’s not: is the character now narrating their experience reliable, or not? Who is on their side, and who is under some sort of spell?

A 13 year old, somewhat autistic kid; a recently divorced cop; an overweight university student with a huge crush on a guy in her paranormal  club; a young woman from New York, searching for her sister; and a PhD psychiatrist, who is more than she seems. You follow them into the Slade house… will you follow them back out?

All this builds up at an incredible pace, that is somehow slow enough to create tension, but fast enough to make you feel almost breathless. How did I finish this book so quickly? Is it because I didn’t want to put it down? The slow reveal of “The truth” behind the events, the pieces slowly coming together over the centuries, is actually quite astonishing, and you realize just how brilliant of an author Mitchell is.

Just like Slade house, the reader only pops into existence every 9 years. We just have enough time to access the situation, to figure out who’s our first person narrator (I would like to point out the irony in being in this person’s mind, but I’m sure this will be funnier after you’ve finished reading the novel) and how they are connected to everything else, before their inevitable trip to the Slade house. It’s interesting to follow the evolution over time, how the place has changed, how the people have changed. Time itself seems to be a character in this novel.

Mitchell does seem to like his invented words, however. He sure has a right to. Some, however, felt a little weird, especially at first, in 1979. When they are used, it seems almost like a science fiction novel, rather than the fantasy fiction genre. It was slightly odd, but probably my only qualm about the novel.

If you’re looking for something spooky this halloween, pick up Slade House, on October 27th. it’s a fun, fast read. For fans of “The Bone Clocks”.

The Dead House

by Dawn Kurtagich

Reviewed by SA

Halloween may be over a month away, but one of the most thrilling, blood chilling, though provoking thrillers comes out today, September 15th. It’s one of the most maddening books I have ever read: part psychological thriller, part horror story, part ‘found footage’ if you will, The Dead House will have you checking behind you in the mirror, and leaving notes to yourself on purple post its. It’s terrifying… and electrifying.


Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .
Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.
Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Carly and Kaitlyn are the same person. Only, they’re not. They may share the same body, but their minds are their own: Carly runs things the day, Kaitlyn the night. They were born like this, two souls sharing a body, and they are used to it. They love each other; they are sisters, after all. They write notes to each other to let them know about their day, to comfort and love the other. Of course, no one can know any of this: they wouldn’t believe them.

And nobody does: after their parents’ death, in an accident they cannot recall, they are places in a mental hospital, where Kaitlyn is repeatedly told she is Carly’s ‘Alter’, that she isn’t real, and that letting go will let her sister heal. Only Kaitlyn is having some problems of her own: hearing voices, seeing things, losing touch…

All this may sound like major spoilers, but it is all established int he first few pages of the book. It’s one of the things that make this novel so compelling: so many stories tucked into one. You have the two sisters in one body; but you also have the question of psychosis, weather any of that is true; and on top of that, the format of the novel, which reminds you there might be more to all this than any one person is seeing.

The novel itself is supposedly the compilation of diary entries, audio and video transcripts, interviews and sessions, all putting in order the events leading up to the looming ‘incident’: a fire that burns down the Elmbridge school, taking the lives of three people and injuring many others. Kaitlyn being the main suspect, it is her life is being pieced together: but how much of it are her real fears, and how much is just the ravings of a lunatic?

That’s what kept me reading the novel with such intensity: the what if. There was a sense, as you read this novel, that really nothing is as it seems. Is our narrator reliable or not? I’d like to say yes, but if I am wrong, then the repercussions on the story are endless. As the other characters join into Kaitlyn’s life, after certain events force her secret to be known to few, the plot becomes more intriguing as the suspect pull grows. The reader is constantly left wondering what is real, what is fake, who can be trusted, and who is not as they seem.

The format that makes the story so varied was a bit of a pain to read, at least in the edition I had. It took a little while to get used to, and I didn’t think it worked at first, especially the video recaps. (I mean, video in written form?). I either got used to it, or it really started working, because it stopped bothering me so much.

While Kaitlyn seemed so read as a character, written with such depth and dimension, that she brought the horror to life, some of the other characters felt a little flat. Anybody outside of Kaitlyn’s head, practically, except maybe Naida. Possibly because everything is either seen a) through Kaitlyn’s eyes, and she doesn’t always like people or b) by transcribing footage, which is impersonal or emotionless. I guess I can’t really blame the book for that!

But this is by far the spookiest book I’ve read in YA, by far. So many questions. Not enough answers! The ending had me clutching my e-reader in anticipation. I had to keep resetting my machine to make sure there weren’t any more pages left.

The Dead House comes out today in the USA. If you want something to keep you up at night, I definitely recommend it.