The House On Cold Hill by Peter James book review

Ghosts abound in Peter James’ The House On Cold Hill

House On Cold Hill by Peter James

Featuring about as many tropes as a horror fan could gather from the harbinger of a title, The House On Cold Hill mixes some intricate and interesting cross-genre storylines with well-worn passages that provide intrigue, but not outright scares.

Cold Hill House is an old mansion latticed in mystery that has just been bought by a young family. While likeable, the central characters are all somewhat stock types, though extensive attention to detail brings minor characters to life in a manner that develops the landscape of the story as well as situating it as a particularly English novel in the manner of his other work.

While it is primarily a character study rather than a thriller, the story’s build-up is severely hampered by underdeveloped and repetitive writing; the wind always “howls” and the lead characters always “pad” across floors.

What’s more, when James does use more imaginative language, it is so obviously a clue that the half-awake reader has seen the story’s big reveals before the book’s half-way point, which saps a lot of the scare factor.

Compounding the problem, so many different genre strands are then criss-crossed that some key plot lines are simply not completed. This becomes frustrating as pivotal set pieces are not fully explored and, as a more serious structural fault, it means that the novel’s gothic design feels like a false façade because stylised sections are not given enough background information to ring true.

Peter James’ The House On Cold Hill is an entertaining, if rather unimaginative, multi-genre mystery with a staff of colourful characters but rather drab decor. Ultimately, it collapses under the weight of its own architectural ambition at the expense of a greater attention to detail.