Haunted by James Herbert


Publisher: Jove Books, 338 pages
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

Haunted was the subject of a group read over at Supernatural Fiction Readers hosted by Werner A. Lind on Goodreads as well as a R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X reading challenge at Estella Society.

What it’s about: David Ash, a paranormal investigator for the Psychical Research Institute, has taken a case in rural England where he meets the siblings Simon, Christina, and Robert; and their aunt, Nanny Tess. They live in a decaying mansion full of mysterious noises and drafts and fires that disappear. To complicate matters, David is an alcoholic, latent psychic who is haunted by a past that includes the drowning death of his young sister. David insists ghosts are either natural phenomena or the result of charlatans, and makes it his mission to ferret out the truth and disprove the existence of ghosts. The Psychical Research Institute employs David for this reason. The Institute’s rationale is that if David can expose fakery, this will provide a basis to legitimize actual hauntings.

Once at the Edbrook mansion, David struggles to obtain proper equipment readings or explain sensations of crippling fear. Nanny Tess avoids him even though she summoned him. David is hindered by the tricks and half-truths of the brothers, and finds himself falling for the beautiful but enigmatic Christine. Meanwhile, he nightly follows a giggling young girl in white ankle socks and a translucent woman in white who leads him to a treacherous pond.

Back at the Institute, psychic Edith Phipp’s visions tell her all is not right at Edbrook. Just as her dreams escalate in intensity, David’s behavior becomes more erratic and his thoughts more troubled.   

Gradually David will awaken to a truth he may not care to see.  

What I thought: James Herbert is a renowned writer of the supernatural. Haunted is the first of a series featuring David Ash (don’t you love his evocative last name?) and Kate McCarrick. I read the second of the series, Ghosts of Sleath, and found it too macabre for my taste. However, in Haunted, the author does a wonderful job with setting and character to establish a dark and eerie tone, more atmospheric than the graphic horror scenes of the second David Ash book.

Edbrook is the perfect setting for this atmospheric novel. Bounded by ornate, 16th century gates and dominating the landscape, Edbrook is “imposing in its grayness” and “disconcerting in its bleakness” (36). Author Herbert knows how to ratchet up tension as when David touches a bed and reacts “as though his fingertips had dipped into icy liquid” (222). David’s trials of terror and exhaustion are rendered in believable scenes, compounded by his isolation in the dreary, remote countryside. And bonus of bonusesthere’s a hidden mausoleum. I’ve loved mausoleums ever since I used to race home from middle school to watch Dark Shadows.

Haunted was made into a movie in 1995 starring Aidan Quinn and Kate Beckinsale. This is one of those instances in which I enjoyed the movie slightly more than I enjoyed the book, partly because the book interrupted the plot to insert long flashbacks that I found somewhat disruptive. However, Herbert’s novel is a book that must be added to any aficionado’s comprehensive list. Haunted is to ghost fiction what The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye are to American literature.

For a ghost tale filled with dark foreboding and spine-tingling scenes, James Herbert’s novel, as well as the 1995 movie, will leave you feeling Haunted.


Haunted by James Herbert — 10 Comments

  1. I have never seen the movie or read the book. It sounds pretty good, though I’m one of those that want to read the book first. Thanks for the review. I will definitely check this book out.

    • Hi Fee,
      It’s probably best to read the book first since movies always leaves stuff out. Many people prefer the book over the movie. I love ghost movies so much that I think I am biased in favor of movies even though I generally prefer books to movies.

  2. I do remember seeing this movie. I had no idea it was from a book. I love these types of stories. I really did enjoy the movie, will have to read the book. 🙂

    • Betsy,
      I’ve been surprised as well–watching a movie only to find out later it’s based on a book. Sometimes it’s hard to read the book after seeing the movie. I loved the movie Hearts of Atlantis with Anthony Hopkins and picked up the book but somehow when it’s time to start a new book, that’s never the one I pick.

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