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The House on Cold Hill: Reader’s Digest

By Barry Forshaw

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A chilling ghost story by the number one bestselling British crime writer Peter James.

Are you an admirer of the Roy Grace detective novels of Peter James? If so, did you know that there’s far more to his writing than crime and detectives?

This new book is a reminder that the writer’s long absence from the supernatural genre has not dulled his edge. The House on Cold Hill is every inch the equal of his earlier efforts but is shored up by more complex attention to character detail than can be found in his early novels.

Ollie Harcourt and his wife Karen (along with their 12-year-old daughter Jade) abandon the suburban comfort of Brighton (James’ own stamping ground) to move to a dilapidated countryside Georgian mansion—the eponymous Cold Hill House.

As in all such narratives, as the reader waits on tenterhooks for things to go wrong, the family persuades themselves that their new house will be good for animal-loving Jade while Ollie can use it to build his web design business.

The one unconvinced member of the family is the apprehensive Karen. She’s right—it doesn’t take long before the family realises that they are not alone in the house. There are chilling incidents: An elderly lady who appears from nowhere, and the furniture’s habit of appearing in the wrong places.

These early sorties into the uncanny grow ever more sinister until Cold Hill House threatens to envelop the family forever. All this is delivered with the chutzpah one would expect from James, and readers will experience that delicious chill of apprehension to be found in such novels as Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

It’s to be hoped that alongside his estimable detective novels, James will continue to turn out stand-alones as mesmerising as this.