Moving from the heart of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion – Ollie is filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, he has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and he sees Cold Hill House, with its acres of land, as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, the perfect base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being separated from her friends.
Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents of the house. A friend of Jade’s is the first to see the spectral woman, standing behind her as the girls talk on FaceTime. Then there are more sightings, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. As the haunting becomes more malevolent and the house itself begins to turn on the Harcourts, the terrified family discover Cold Hill House’s dark history, and the horrible truth of what it could mean for them…
The House on Cold Hill is an entertaining ghost story from one of my favourite crime writers, Peter James. I always enjoy his Roy Grace series so thought I’d give this a go, especially as a second in the series was released in 2019, so it made sense to start with the first.
The book features a likable family – married couple Oliver and Caro, and their twelve year old daughter Jade – as they move house into a grand, huge old house in the Sussex countryside. They’ve pooled all of their savings into this house, and though it’s no secret that it needs a lot of work doing, they’re determined to do what’s needed to make this house a home for their family.
Things start to get very odd, and the creepiness continues as the novel builds up the tension. I think you know what to expect with a book like this, which is billed as a ghost story/ horror, but the fact that I could predict most of the overarching narrative (as is often the case with this genre) didn’t take away from the entertainment value of the story. Peter James writes with his usual skill, ensuring it’s a really readable and fun read, and the creepiness is just the right level – definitely enough to get your heckles rising and wonder what exactly is going to happen next without keeping me up at night. I liked the subtly creepy occurences throughout is fun to read, but it’s not partcularly frightening, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your taste.
The book starts with a real bang, and after that the suspense continues. Don’t expect anything too crazily different to other books in this genre, and you’re bound to enjoy this novel. The plot moves along at a good pace, and although we get a lot of details around the family’s lives and renovation of the house, it never felt boring or dull. I very much enjoyed this entertaining ghost story.