October 29, 2015 6:47 AM EDT

David Mitchell’s new novel is his Turn of the Screw: a creepy little ghost story replete with literary ambition. It started life as a series of tweets, but it ended up the latest installment in the Cloud Atlas author’s incomparable multivolume saga of immortal bearers of light vs. parasitic soul suckers.

Let me explain. Slade House begins in 1979, with a boy hurrying down a London street after his mother, late for a very important date. From the moment young Nathan pushes open the small black door in Slade Alley, his life is in danger–or rather, his soul is. The house’s inhabitants, a twin brother and sister, have preyed for decades on the psychic energy of emotionally sensitive people. But they don’t know that across space and time, their victims are working to bring about their downfall.

Mitchell flits among the realest of voices–a shy teenage girl, a washed-up cop–in the most supernatural of settings: a brilliant, career-long high-wire act. If you haven’t read him yet, Slade House is your 238-page, pocket-size gateway drug. Go ahead, try it. You only live once. Well, most of us do, anyway.

This appears in the November 09, 2015 issue of TIME.

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