Thursday, March 5, 2009

BOOK: The Beast House

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a devout Richard Laymon advocate. If you look at my ratings on GoodReads, you will find a consistent five/five stars for every Laymon book I've read...until now.

In the case of The Beast House, I think the first book, The Cellar, prematurely robbed it of its glory. Having read the first book, I already knew the mystery behind the killings at Beast House in enough detail to make me sick, so I didn't see how he was going to build any suspense. The answer is that he didn't. Not that it could have been done exactly, but what Laymon did was resort to his character development toolkit and create a small, but strong, cast.

Laymon is the master of taking what seems like a simple situation and turning it into a white-knuckled thrill ride of mystery, suspense, terror, and--this is the biggie--interesting characters. That, my friends, is Laymon's niche: interesting characters. He knows how to reach out from the pages and pull you into the characters' world, turning the pages frenetically, desperate to spend more time with them. It's amazing how nuanced the characters are in each and every book.

Character development aside, this guy knows how to build suspense. Sometimes I have to flip pages back and forth to make sure none are missing because of how quickly he jumps around to create a sense of confusion and panic. He knows how to introduce a mysterious character that immediately puts you on guard and causes you to keep turning to pages because, well, you're just not so sure about this guy or girl. Then, there's his amazing ability to execute the shock factor. Suddenly, your favorite character is in a spine-chilling situation that could only come from the mind of Richard Laymon. Seriously, some scenes are outright revolting!

With The Beast House, we get a group of wily, young friends (two guys and two girls, conveniently) who meet up along the way to Malcasa Point, CA, home of Beast House. Then, we get a conniving duo of author and research assistant who come to look into the Beast House for a potential bestseller. Like Stephen King, Laymon uses the writer character a lot in his books, most likely because that's what he knows best. But this is the first time I have comes across an evil, murderous, scheming writer character of his, and I loved it. Usually, Laymon's writer is the most formidable character in the book. This writer, on the other hand, basically gets everyone, including himself, killed for his shot at fortune and fame.

Long story short, they all end up at Beast House after a third of the book is spent developing the relationship between the one girl, Tyler, and the one guy, Abe, while the other guy-girl, Jack and Nora, constantly disappear together, undoubtedly lost in their infatuation. There is a bunch of graphic violence, a lot of gore, then the mother-daughter pair from the first book are brought back into the picture, and then we hit the final pages.

Before reading the final pages, I settled myself after the grisly crescendo at Beat House and prepared myself for how Laymon was going to setup for the third book in the series, The Midnight Tour. He ended up leaving the daughter alive and hidden in the house, pregnant with one of the creatures' offspring. Then, we find that even after all of the publicly known killing, the house still stands and the tours continue to run.

The only thing we really get from this sequel is a little more information about where the beasts came from. Sprinkled on top of that is a classic dull horror story.

Do I sound like I am defending Laymon even though I'm giving his book a bad review? I should, because that's exactly what I'm doing. I guess the reason is because I don't want to turn anyone curious away from Laymon. I can honestly say all of his other books I've read are outstanding. But as far as the Beast House series is concerned, I think it should have stopped after The Cellar.

Now, off to read The Midnight Tour, with hopes of a better job...

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