Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Creatures in the Suburbs

The Beast of Barcroft

By Bill Schweigart


Publisher: Hydra

Pub. Date: November 17, 2015

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


I think the monster novel is making a comeback. There seems to be a lot of literary creature features this year. Perhaps the vampire has finally ran out of blood and the zombies went on a brain-free diet. It is time Cryptozoology had a chance to lord over the horror novels for a time. Mythological creatures, Bigfoot, Sea creatures ...they all need a day in the sun.

The Beast of Barcroft is a novel about one of those creatures. Which one cannot not be said for the author Bill Schweigart takes a long time to name the monster in his novel. We are given a lot of choices though. In the beginning of the book, when down on his luck glass-half-empty Ben sees his dog killed by the creature, he is pretty sure it is a mountain lion. Except mountain lions are almost non-existent in the Washington DC suburb of Barcroft. There is a strange woman next door to him whose passion for collecting animals causes a neighborhood rat problem that that pales next to the increasing body count of the creature. From there on, The Beast of Barcroft develops into what could be called a monster mystery. What is the killer creature the resident fear and the officials scoff at? Is someone behind its appearance?

It's a nice plot and the author does follow with some nice imagery and scares. Yet the mystery wanes through a good part of the book. We do not even get a hint on the identity of the creature until about halfway through and perhaps that may not even be correct. By the middle of the novel, it feels like the plot is looking for a purpose and not finding it. The characters do not really help to find that purpose. Even Ben, despite a number of misfortunes, seems to be one-dimensional. When the Cryptozoologist arrives I am looking for a little eccentricity to relieve the ennui but none is found except for a few mild play of words on mythological terms. When we finally get to the true identity of the monster, it falls flat as does the expected climatic battle. If you spend so much time and drama to get to the payoff, I expect more than loose change.

But The Beast of Barcroft is still a pleasant horror tale. It just doesn't rise to the top of the food chain. Perhaps the zombies and vampires will one day have a worthy opponent from the loads of horrible creatures waiting in the literary wings but it won't be The Beast of Barcroft

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