Darker evenings, Halloween approaching and the chill of winter creeping in your bones. Time for a bit of a scary read.

You can’t go wrong with best seller Peter James. Usually known for his crime novels with DS Roy Grace set in Brighton, he’s just as good at scaring the pants off the reader with a ghostly tale.

This new novel follows after The House on Cold Hill in which a couple find a new home in the Sussex countryside haunted with evil spirits. Now the house has gone, burnt down in a fire and has been rebuilt as part of a new expanding housing development – Cold Hill Park.

Although much of the area is still a construction site, the first two families move into their new ultra-modern, high tech homes.

Already in situ are Maurice and Claudette Penze-Weedle. A treat of a couple, she’s a dragon who spends too much and although a real snob has the garden festooned with a garish Christmas grotto and keeps her poor husband right under her thumb. He’s worried about money having lost his insurance job and intrigued by the young couple who are moving in opposite.

Emily and Jason Danes are a young couple looking to a happy future in their forever home. She’s started a catering business and he’s an artist who’s just starting to make a name for himself with valuable commissions and a London exhibition on the cards for the New Year.

But as soon as they move in strange things and visions start to appear that make them question their minds and sometimes each other.

Meanwhile, getting to know the locals, especially in the village pub leads to a lot of hostility and a threatening farmer who is full of doom about their future in Cold Hill.

James writes in short chapters, quickly setting the scene and building the tension. There is a lot going on and some might feel it’s just a bit too unbelievable. Bringing in the history of the past should help the young couple to find out what is going on but it brings to the fore the very fear they are feeling around their new home.

Set around Christmas it’s a great read for a chilly night in front of the fire. If you find yourself looking into the dark corners of your house or perhaps see strange shadows and things heightening your senses, the author’s work is done.

This is an author who knocks out books with rapid fire. Next May another Roy Grace crime novel is due and I’ll be first in the queue for that one. As a personal read this ghost story isn’t usually my thing but the author has done some fine research into the psychic world and this shows in some good scenes which for me highlighted the plot. I think book groups will also find themselves drawn into this little chiller too.

Philipa Coughlan 4/4

The Secret of Cold Hill by Peter James
Macmillan 9781509816231 hbk Oct 2019