Category Archives: Horror

The House on Cold Hill by Peter James

I’m a massive fan of Halloween, so was very excited to be invited to review The House on Cold Hill by Peter James, even though I wouldn’t normally select a “haunted house” narrative myself. After all, once you’ve read one you’ve read them all, right? Haunted house clichés in books and films are so common that you don’t need me to compile a list of them for you… the challenge is for an author to either completely break the mould, or to work within the tropes that a reader will expect while still offering enough unpredictability to creep them out. Not easy.

The House on Cold Hill is definitely in the latter camp and though James brings out many haunted house classics (cold rooms, frightened animals, glimpses of shadows), these are cleverly used. Having stunned the reader with an unexpected plot twist in the first chapter, the opening of the novel then focuses on the cataclysmic restoration of Cold Hill House. Initially I felt as if I was watching a channel four mash-up of Phil Spencer Secret Agent and Most Haunted, a cautionary tale of dabbling in property with horror tropes drip fed slowly into the narrative. But all the while the subtle cues of a haunted house story gradually built tension while I was looking the other way. By the time the novel is reaching its climax, I found myself hooked on the story. Although there are a few elements that are a little predictable (an aspect of the genre, rather than the author’s imagination) there are enough false leads and red herrings to keep you wrong footed and guessing at the ending until the penultimate chapter.

If you’re looking for a ghost story for 2015, then The House on Cold Hill is definitely worth a read. And who doesn’t like curling up with a spooky tale on a cold winter’s evening?

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Blood and Ice- Robert Masello

When it’s cold outside and I need to choose a book to read, it can go one of two ways. Either I want total distraction, in which case I go for something with descriptions of somewhere nice and warm, think Under the Tuscan Sun. Otherwise, I hop in a hot bath and read about poor souls suffering in a subzero climate. Schadenfreude. Blood and Ice was one of these.

Set on a base near the South Pole, Blood and Ice follows a journalist writing for an eco travel magazine who is trying to escape his personal demons following an accident for which he was responsible. His editor wants him to take some stunning pictures, write about the work that the scientists are doing there and point out that climate change may destroy the stunning landscape for ever. But of course, having a title like Blood and Ice, it was never going to be that simple and his problems really begin when, on a diving expedition, he discovers a man and a woman chained together beneath the ice with a cache of wine bottles containing human blood. Guess where we’re going with this…

As a vampire story it was satisfying enough, not a great work in the genre, but an entertaining read and no one sparkled which was good enough for me. What really struck me about it was how similar it was in many ways to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. There were countless references to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which given the setting and scenes like a ship trapped in sea ice or dog chases across the poles can’t have been a coincidence. Maybe it was trying to say something about humans meddling with science, though if it was it didn’t work. Maybe the author just found himself inspired.

It’s not a bad book, but it’s nothing great either, especially if you’re looking for a horror book.