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Friday, 23 March 2018

Book Review: The House on Cold Hill by Peter James

Ollie and Caro Harcourt move into a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion with their daughter Jade. The move will place a substantial financial strain on the family, but Ollie thinks it is the perfect place to settle down out in the country. Very quickly after moving in, Jade’s friend spots a presence in the background while on FaceTime – but there are other residents in this house, and as the history of the house is unravelled, the forces start to become more malevolent.


I had so many issues with this book. So I’ll try and present them as best as I can. Firstly, from the very beginning we are bombarded with these brand names – the Range Rover, the Golf, Nespresso pods, Mac, Instagram, FaceTime, the Dyson… it goes on…and on and on. This was very distracting to me, it felt like James was trying to show he was hip and down with the kids. It’s basically the equivalent of that Steve Buscemi meme where he was in 30 Rock and is wearing a baseball cap backwards with a skateboard slung over his shoulder – “How do you do, fellow kids?” And okay, maybe he was trying to demonstrate how “well-off” this family was, that they can afford these fancy cars and Apple products and they don’t just drink instant coffee, oh no, they use Nespresso pods. Fair enough… BUT EVERY 10 SECONDS WE ARE REMINDED OF THEIR ABILITY TO AFFORD THIS HUGE MANSION. I got it, okay? I got it.

Speaking of, it drove me around the bend that these two IDIOTS purchased this house even after the surveyor’s report probably had a red stamp on it saying “Don’t buy this – it’s a shithole”. At one point, our protagonist even alludes to the fact that he overlooked some details on the report. Oh, you know, just tiny details that if ignored would result in the four walls of their mansion caving in around them. Insignificant, I guess? And they constantly bitch and moan about all these “unforeseen” additions being made to the renovation list. How have these two morons got this far in life?

The “scares” and the “plot twists” had me rolling my eyes so far back that I went blind periodically whilst reading this book. A blind man on a galloping horse would have seen this shit coming. I HATE, HATE, HATE that “twist” in movies or books – you know the one – “oh, you were talking to Mr X? He’s been dead for 10 years.” Anytime that plot twist is used I want to rip every eyelash from my eyelids.

Certain ideas or details are just hammered home – the pounding music coming from the daughter’s bedroom, the daughter constantly being on her phone, the financial strain currently on the couple… I hate excessive repetition like this – I, unlike the characters in this book, am not an idiot. You don’t need to reinforce silly details or ideas with me. Oh, also the husband constantly telling the wife that everything is going to be okay. It’s clearly not, Ollie. You have some fucking evil presence in your home, this is not easily fixed. And the family don’t communicate with each other!! My favourite instance being when the 12 year old daughter tells them about a man having been in her room the previous number of nights – ARE YOU FOR REAL. A fucking spider enters my room and I’ll tell the entire country, and I’m 28!!!

Oh, the dialogue was a delight. It was cheesy and unrealistic and cringeworthy at times. Darling this, darling that… even in the midst of being terrorised in your family home!! It was like watching one of those Z list movie on the Christmas channel that my mum loves.

I could honestly write another PhD thesis on why this book did not work for me. I’m trying to think of something positive to say… to be fair, it was easy reading. Not much thought or concentration required, and therefore was quite easy to just breeze through. And I guess I did find some enjoyment in hating it so much. I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was so bad it was good, but it did make me laugh at times (which clearly was not the intention). Since it didn’t waste too many precious reading hours, and some parts were okay (I guess), I’d give it 2 stars. I’m feeling generous.

Johann
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