The "Secret" of Crickley Hall

I try to cull my TBR list regularly.  Okay, fine, regularly-ish.  I'm never as ruthless with my own lists as I am with, say, books in the library that need to be weeded.  If it smells like a troll died in it or the spine is lettered in white-out pen, it needs to go.  Pronto.  But my booklist?  What if I take something off and then I forget about it and it turns out it would have been one of my favorite books ever had I read it?  I'm not going to use that idiotic acronym, but yes: it's a form of the fear of missing out.

So, while I go through and delete books that were obvious reminders to buy it for the library, I mostly cull the list by actually checking out or buying the books and seeing if I actually want to read them.  Thanks to the library, this is generally free.

Like many listmakers, crossing off the things on the top of the list is the most satisfying in a weird, brain-chemical way.  James Herbert's The Secret of Crickley Hall has been at number 20 on my massive list for several years now.  The library doesn't own it, and I try to limit my ILL requests, so I took advantage of Amazon's Cyber Monday code and ordered it.

The first problem was entirely of my own making, and that is that I thought that this was James Thurber (of Many Moons fame) and I thought it would be intriguing to read a scary story by Thurber.  OOPS.  Same first name, totally different last name.  But hey, people were describing him as the "British Stephen King," so I felt that all was not lost.  Plus, I love a good spooky house story.  Yeah!  Let's do this!

Page one: "Gabe, her American husband, kept calling it [the interstate]."  Well, I suppose that depends on from whence Gabe hails in the U.S.  I call it the freeway, but one state down, in Illinois, it's the tollway.  Or you could call it a highway.  It's only an interstate if there's an "I" in front of the number: I-90, for example, but I still call that a "freeway" because it's my personal grammar.  Clearly, Eve, the Obviously Very British Wife, loves to nitpick.  Page two: "because his homeland was the States, Gabe had convinced their youngest daughter, Cally, that he had once been a cowboy."

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"The Captain seems to think you're some sort of cowboy."

Oy vey.  Gabe has been living in the UK for sixteen years.  I would think he'd at least pick up terminology.  Like does he still call the Tube a subway?  Who knows?  This could have been in 475 of the pages I didn't read.

Just keep in mind that pretty much the whole book (well, I made it to page 125, so for me that was "the whole book") beats the reader over the head with the fact that Gabe is American.  "The American."  It's really not that big of a deal.  Unless Herbert is still smarting from the whole Revolution thing over 200 years ago.

Actually, the whole hyper-focus on Gabe's nationality kind of sums up the book.  It's a waste of words on something that's totally mundane and that we all have heard or read a million times before.  The plot is color-by-numbers.

  1. Family suffers tragedy.
  2. Family runs away to escape awful memories of tragedy.
  3. Family moves into haunted house because ... reasons.
  4. Creepy things start happening.
  5. Family ignores creepy things.
  6. Really bad and dangerous creepy things happen.
  7. Family gets stuck.
  8. Enter the Medium.
  9. Family must break curse on house and free the spirits with help of Medium.
  10. Yay all the dead people are happeeeee!
It takes Herbert 600 pages to do this.  I think he managed the page count just by writing sentences that repeat themselves (this happens a lot; he likes to repeat himself, like this!).  I had no sympathy for or connection with any of the characters, except for maybe Chester the dog, who's the only sensible one in this whole family.

This is completely skippable (in fact, I'd advise you to run far, far away from it).  If you must get your spooky-house fix, stream a silly Hollywood horror film starring C-list "actresses" and "actors."  

Hopefully I can return this for a refund.


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