Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Edward Lee
Published by Leisure Books
I’ve read a few of Lee’s books in the past, City Infernal and Infernal Angel the most well known of them, and I’ve always found his horror to be lacking in something. He also tends to have an annoying habit of having his characters repeat information that is pretty obvious to the reader, which comes across as speaking down to the readers to me.
So going into Flesh Gothic I knew it was going to take something special to impress me, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this book has it.
On April 3rd, eccentric millionaire Arthur Hildreth murdered all the people residing in his expansive mansion, which he had turned into a porno studio after buying out a small-time studio about a year before. When the police arrived, the found a pile of bodies and body pieces in the middle of what was known as “The Scarlet Room”. Appropriate.
Even though the official report was the Hildreth killed himself after the mass murder, his wife doesn’t believe a word of it. She hires an ex-private eye named Westmore, a man she can have monetary influence over to make sure she gets what she wants, and sends him into the house to report back on what her other investigative group, a team of well-respected psychics and “ghost hunters,” are discovering.
She believes her husband is still alive, you see, and in the house somewhere. The psychics are there just to find out exactly how “charged” the house is and figure out exactly what happened on the night of April 3rd. Hildreth himself, however, still has plans for the house and its new guests.
What we have in Flesh Gothic is an interesting blend of sex and horror that only a few writers working today can get away with. Part of the house’s power comes from the sexual energy of those behind its walls, so when Hildreth’s wife picks the ones that will investigate it, she’s sure to pick ones that have some serious sexual issues. That’s what helps the house grow in power and deepens the mystery for the hapless Westmore and those that are there to investigate it.
Lee’s style has pulled back from the flamboyancy that was the Infernal books, and he seems to have matured a writer if this book is any indication. He’s got some very interesting characters, well-drawn people that it’s easy to feel sympathy (or in some cases empathy) for, which was another thing I always found missing from his earlier work. This, coupled with a story that’s full of lots of twists and turns up until the last few pages, makes for a fact-paced read that will intrigue you as it’s attempting to gross you out.
Yeah, there’s a lot of sex in this book. A lot of it. Considering the motives behind Hildreth, it’s expected there would be, but most of this is the nastiest stuff you could think of, the kind of sex that can only take place in the most perverted corners of the imagination. And it was a nightly occurrence in the Hildreth house, as the volume of DVDs left behind is evidence of. Most of it’s nasty and will leave you with a warm feeling when you’re done, unless you get some bile on yourself.
Yeah, Flesh Gothic is not a pretty book, but anyone that’s familiar with Lee would expect nothing less than savagery from him. Luckily he tempers that in this book with fully realized characters and an interesting storyline. I would say this is a great way for anyone that’s not familiar with his work to be introduced to him, as it features a blend of all the things he’s known for in just the right mixture. For fans of Lee, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it for all the same reasons, but you just might see him in a different light when it’s all over.
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