Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Richard Laymon
Published by Leisure Books
Leisure’s last Laymon release, The Cellar (review), introduced us to the citizens of Malcasa Point, CA, a small coastal town that is home to Victorian-era structure known by tourists as Beast House. Since the early 20th century the house has been the sight of numerous grizzly murders enacted by a creature that is more of legend than of fact. The few who have lived to tell the tale of the monstrosity are usually seen as kooks or crazies, thought that doesn’t stop the house’s owner from conducting daily tours of Beast House, telling of the mysterious deaths that occurred there and horrifying tourists with life-like wax sculptures showing the victims in their final state.
In the first book we learned that the house is home to not just one beast, but an entire brood of them who are kept alive and well by the house’s owner. In Beast House a new set of strangers end up in town, one girl traveling with her friend to find a long-lost love, the other a pair of former Marines who save the girls by the roadside. Also in town is famed horror author Gorman Hardy, who is drawn to town by one of the local residents with the promise of the secrets of Beast House being revealed, allowing him yet another multi-million bestseller book.
Of course all is not as it seems, as is usually the case with Laymon’s multi-layered narratives and even though there is way too much time spent on matters of the heart instead of matters of the monster, Beast House is still a solid and fun romp.
Hardy, for example, is a swindling low-life whose only real attainable goal is to make sure he’s not sharing any profit from the sale of his books with anyone but himself. His long-time assistant, who actually helped the sales of his last book by assisting a woman commit suicide to keep the events in described in the book as legit as possible, is killed pretty early on and Hardy is actually happy about it. More profit for him and less witnesses to point out the sleazy things he does to get a solid narrative.
What really dragged down Beast House more than anything else, though, was the slowly unfolding love story that goes on between the two leads. For whatever reason Laymon seemed to have an obsession with people finding new loves in the midst of tragedy and Beast House is one of the more blatant examples of that obsession. Though it would’ve been fine if balanced with a bit more monster action, sadly, the beast in question makes very few appearances until the very end of the tale.
Laymon chose to further expand on the mythology of the Beast House with this story, introducing a character whose father was the one responsible for bringing the beast to California in the first place, having found a whole island full of them on his sea travels and keeping an infant beast for reasons unknown. While it helps to fill in a bit of the backstory on the beast, the character, a bitter, paranoid yet loveable ex-sailor who lives in a bus, doesn’t really serve much purpose outside of delivering helpful exposition when its necessary. He also serves as a bit of comic relief, being the type to never turn down a drink and always willing to tell the tale of his father’s biggest mistake to anyone who will listen. Though he’s out of shape and drunk most of the time, he’s armed to the hilt, prepared to destroy the beast the first chance he gets and I’m happy to say he does get some comeuppance as the story winds down.
If you’re in the mood for a good monster story you might want to look elsewhere because, as previously stated, Laymon doesn’t feature the beast nearly as much as it seemed he should have, choosing instead to build the mystery around it by making characters discuss it’s existence ad nauseum.
However if you’re looking for the story of two star-crossed lovers who find true contentment right before they come face-to-face with a flesh-tearing sex crazed sub-creature, Beast House will satisfy your cravings.
3 1/2 out of 5
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