The Beast House is the second entry into the Beast House Chronicles. If you haven’t read the first book I encourage you to stay clear of this review.
The Beast House
Cemetery Dance (1998; original publish date 1986)
The Beast House picks up a year after the events in The Cellar. Old Maggie Kutch and her merry band of beasts are still running amuck in Malcasa Point while one of the town’s residents, Janice Crogan, decides to try to cash in on the infamy of the Beast House by sending an inquiry to legendary genre author Gorman Hardy. Hardy is intrigued by Janice’s letter and sets off to Malcasa Point to do some additional research.
Meanwhile two young librarians, Tyler and Nora, are also headed to Malcasa Point to seek out Tyler’s ex-fiance. In typical Laymon fashion, the two women run afoul of a belligerent traveler who wants to put a serious whoopin’ on the two little ladies. Just as the man is about inflict some serious damage (with a car antenna, no less!) two Marines come to the rescue. Once the librarians have been saved, the four decide they will make the journey together to Malcasa Point. Much like Judge and Donna in The Cellar, love begins to blossom between one of the marines, Abe, and Tyler. Laymon uses this budding romance to exploit the inner turmoil with Tyler. She is out to find her ex-fiance yet she is very much attracted to Abe. Although not the same type of circumstances, this same type of turmoil was shown in Donna’s character in The Cellar.
Once in town the librarians and Marines come across one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever encountered in a Laymon novel. His name is Captain Frank and he is a long time resident of Malcasa Point. The locals think that Captain Frank is nothing more than a crazy old drunk who will do anything to be the center of attention. It turns out that Captain Frank really is a crazy old drunk but he also harbors a very dark secret- his father was the man who brought the beast to Malcasa Point. Frank’s telling of the beast’s origin story was nothing short of gripping. It added a new dimension to the beast and I thought it was the definite high point of the novel
As The Beast House speeds along, all of the characters eventually meet up. They all decide (for different reasons) to explore the Beast House after dark and chaos ensues. The last quarter of the book goes by in a flash as Laymon packs in the action and blood with total mastery.
The Beast House is an absolute blast. Laymon takes the reader on one wild rollercoaster ride resulting in some pure horror fun. Gone is the unsettling aggression of The Cellar. Instead, Laymon keeps the mood light and the horror isolated within the walls of the actual house. This makes for a much more comfortable (but not necessarily better) read.
I loved the inclusion of the Gorman Hardy character. Hardy’s elaborate description of the house added a definite cinematic quality to the proceedings. I could feel the house coming alive as Hardy made note of the soulless windows and Victorian architecture. Hardy also made my inner fanboy jump for joy when he asked Abe how he knew about his pseudonyms and Abe responded by saying that he simply “checked the copyright page”. Ah, Laymon you old devil!
The Beast House is an extremely solid entry into the Beast House Chronicles. I love how the whole series is tied together in very subtle ways. It is like returning to a childhood vacation spot and seeing a landmark that triggers a wave of memories. If you were turned off by some of the more intense subject matter found in The Cellar, then give The Beast House a try. It is a much more accessible entry point into the Beast House Chronicles.