cover image The House on Cold Hill

The House on Cold Hill

Peter James. Pan MacMillan, $14.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-4472-5594-9

The chains that rattle in this unsettling contemporary gothic are not spectral but financial: mortgages and work contracts that bind the owners to their haunted mansion. The Harcourts—spouses Ollie, a website developer, and Caro, a property lawyer, along with daughter Jade—move to a Georgia country house in need of repair and, it seems, exorcism. Jade thinks the haunting is charming until the phantoms turn threatening. And Ollie finds his own perceptions of reality are increasingly unreliable as his health and his business start to suffer. James (the Roy Grace mysteries) neatly interlaces the traditional (spooky old building, eccentric locals, legend of missing/murdered wife) with the modern (ghosts as persistent energy patterns that can interact with the Internet and cell phones), never losing the essential heart of the horror as it derails the lives of its victims. After an opening scene of gore, the novel takes time to build to its final unavoidable and understated tragedies. Agent: Carole Blake, Blake Friedmann (U.K.). (Nov.)