I had never read any of James Herbert’s books before, which is surprising—he is an international best selling horror author and was named the Grand Master of Horror by the World Horror Convention in 2010. Many of his books feature a ghost hunter named David Ash, and this stuff is right up my alley. Ash is pleasantly chilling and filled with plenty of horror, intrigue and (yes) paranormal concepts and ideas that would engage anyone who has ever set out to hunt ghosts or things that go bump in the night.
David Ash is both a skeptic and a sensitive, a professional parapsychologist and ghost hunter with a solid reputation for getting to the bottom of anomalous phenomena. In Ash, he is hired to investigate the increasingly creepy goings-on at a sinister Scottish castle. The imposing Comraich hides some utterly grotesque and terrifying secrets in its halls, rooms and dungeons, including a shocking cause for the escalating activity that threatens everyone in the castle—even Ash himself.
But it’s not all ghost-hunting horror for Ash. He meets a beautiful and mysterious psychologist named Delphine and her strange ward, Lewis, as well as a number of “patients” and “clients” that are not at all what they appear to be on the surface. He also becomes responsible for saving their lives as the castle begins to implode with paranormal activity that goes way beyond the usual apparitions and moving objects. This castle is downright CURSED. It’s up to Ash to find out how and why even as he is sabotaged at every attempt by the Castle’s powerful and corrupt Inner Circle, who will stop at nothing to protect their long-held secrets from the authorities and public scrutiny.
Author Herbert truly escalates the scares as the story progresses, causing that phenomenon known as “cannot stop reading” no matter how late the hour. The characters are real and have depth, something not always found in horror novels that mainly defer to the chills and not the people experiencing them. The setting of Castle Comraich and the Scottish sights and sounds add to the atmosphere of this definitely haunted location with a history that includes Nazis, dictators, torture, bizarre medical experimentation, the Royal Family and other real people woven intricately into the fictional story. Some of these real entities drive many of the more shocking twists and turns that really grabbed this reader’s attention and kept me turning pages long past bedtime.
Ash is a great late-night read, but be warned, you will not want to turn out the lights for a long, long time.