Slade House – David Mitchell, 2015.
It is the last Saturday in October.
You are walking down an oddly-shaped, narrow alley cut off from rest of the city.
Maybe a jogger in black and orange trots by.
You are looking for a gnome-sized iron door set into the brick wall.
Maybe you miss it the first time.
You are a bit of a loner, maybe a bit marginalized, a little bit different from the norm. But there is something special about you that you probably aren’t even aware of.
The iron door opens for you.
You might see a beautiful mansion, staggeringly beautiful gardens, or the Halloween frat party to end all parties. Any of which, if you stop to think, is really impossible to fit behind this wall, in this neighborhood; but you don’t stop to think about that very long, because this is such a wonderful place.
Until you lose your soul.
Because every nine years the – unusual – inhabitants of Slade House need a new soul to feed on.
Slade House is a creepy read, and Mitchell is a virtuoso at playing on – and building – your unease.
From the first character’s shocking story, one knows the awful gist of what will happen to future visitors. With this use of dramatic irony, Mitchell cleverly puts the reader in a similar position to the victims of Slade House, but with an even greater, terrifying awareness of what’s ahead. You want to shout at the characters to warn them, but helplessly, cannot.
And these characters are likeable. You share the common and poignant insecurities of those drawn to Slade House: the oddly awkward tween, the recently divorced cop, the overweight college student. In a short space with an edge of dark humor, Mitchell masterfully gives them all souls, and then horribly takes them away.
This is a lightning book: fast and almost impossible to put down. You are trapped in the narrative of Slade House. And while you can escape at the end of the book, this is one that will haunt you for a long time. Great read.