Turn down Slade Alley - narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you're looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn't quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies.
A stranger greets you and invites you inside. At first, you won't want to leave. Later, you'll find that you can't.
This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and comes to its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe'en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a 'guest' is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answers lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs . . .
I first came across David Mitchell when I read Cloud Atlas shortly before the movie came out in 2012. I found the book as fascinating as I found it unnerving, because for half of it I had no clue what on Earth was going on, before Mitchell's intricately created puzzle pieces fell into place in the second half. Fast forward a couple of years and several David Mitchell books and I finally got my hands on the library's copy of Slade House.
In true Mitchell style you don't just get to follow one character in one time line, but several in different time periods. The story starts with Nathan Bishop, a young boy who is joining his mother on the search for Slade House where they have been invited for a soiree. Once they reach their destination, Nathan quickly befriends another young boy and spends the afternoon in his company, but events start to go blurry in Nathan's mind and things quickly take a turn for the worst.
Fast forward nine years and Detective Inspector Gorden Edmonds is investigating the disappeareance of Nathan Bishop and his mother after a new witness has appeared. At this point in time recently widowed Chloe Chetwynd owns Slade House. She and DI Edmonds quickly become close, but is there a happy ending for the two?
3 more times, we get to follow visitors to Slade House, each with their own story and voice.
As always, Mitchell weaves intricate tales that play with our idea of how the mind works and what is real. They could be seen as stand-alone stories, yet each one adds another piece to a puzzle the reader only fully understands at the end of the book. Having said that, I think with Slade House Mitchell was less successful than with other titles of his in this style such as Bone Clocks or Cloud Atlas. In a way, I feel he is giving too much away, which does not leave the reader guessing as much as his other novels. Some might appreciate that, but personally, I quite enjoy the mystery of a David Mitchell novel - because I know I will get my answers eventually and everything will make sense ... and brilliantly so!
People who have read other Mitchell books will also appreciate the reappeareance of concepts and characters that have been encountered in previous novels. It gives Slade House a firm place within the greater David Mitchell universe.
All in all I give Slade House 3.5 of 5 stars. It offers unique character voices and a typical David Mitchell mystery. The reason for the reduction is that I found it a bit predictable at times and would have preferred some threads to remain looser until later in the novel. Still an enjoyable read with an ending that leaves me eager to read Mitchell's next title.
This will be my last post until after the holidays. Thanks for everyone who commented and supported me in the past few months. Have a wonderful Christmas and hopefully see you all again in 2017!