Curious blend of supernatural horror and conspiracy theory, from the veteran ghost-chaser (The Secret of Crickley Hall, 2006, etc.).
In his latest adventure, absinthe-swilling, deeply conflicted paranormal investigator David Ash tackles Comraich Castle in Scotland, an ancient, isolated pile whose sponsors, the Inner Court, comprise a secret organization of British royals and other superrich, shadowy movers and shakers. What’s going on at Comraich? Well, it turns out to be a sanctuary for war criminals, mass murderers, child molesters, insane dictators and others whose public presence might prove embarrassing or dangerous and who desire to vanish utterly (in some cases, involuntarily). Their sole common characteristic is that they are wealthy enough to afford the astronomical fees. Comraich’s problem, as Ash learns, is that an enormously powerful and hostile psychic presence has manifested itself in the dungeons where insane inmates are housed—so powerful, indeed, that it threatens to destroy the castle itself. Herbert pulls in a laundry list of real-life characters (used fictitiously, of course) who disappeared mysteriously or whose deaths gave rise to conspiracy theories (no Elvis, but there is the requisite Hitlerian connection). Tasteful, however, it isn’t. The book opens with the thoughts of a dying Princess Diana—her connection to Comraich isn’t revealed until near the end—and trundles rapidly downhill into mayhem punctuated with bouts of sex and swathes of irrelevant detail. Plot and dialogue often verge on the ludicrous. Readers end up in the peculiar position of knowing what’s to come and actually approving it: Yes, many of the people here are that unpleasant. Herbert clearly intended to channel public anger at the way the superrich insulate themselves from reality, and in this, he succeeds, especially given the recent revelations about how the British royals meddle in politics to their own benefit.
A yarn that has almost everything wrong with it, yet still reveals a compelling truth.