Beware!

February 6, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads)

bewareBeware! by Richard Laymon

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This isn’t the next published novel after Out Are the Lights; there are two books between that one and Beware! — Night Show and Allhallow’s Eve precede this one — but for whatever reason, those two books aren’t available as e-books. So I’m jumping out of order here, but it turns out that it’s good to do so, as Laymon’s talents improve with this book. His characterization is more convincing, and his plot gets more centered, though it’s still far from a perfect story.

The story starts off with a series of brutal attacks that take place in a grocery after it’s closed, which culminate in a vicious double-murder. Lacey Allen, a reporter for the local paper, comes in at the tail end of the murders, and is herself attacked and raped. At the same time, we’re introduced to a character named Matthew Dukane, a vigilante private investigator of sorts who rescues a young woman from a murderous, possibly supernatural cult. The story is about Lacey’s journey to identify her attacker, and Dukane’s journey to discover the origins of the cult. The two stories intertwine, of course, and while it doesn’t feel like the cleanest of merges, it at least doesn’t feel forced.

The main premise of the book is a little ridiculous, even for a horror novel, and that might be a barrier for people reading the story. It doesn’t take long in the story to find it, but it’s still a bit of a surprise, so I don’t want to spoil that for anyone. But it requires a rather big suspension of disbelief, on par with Gregor Samsa turning into a huge bug overnight, but where Kafka put that moment at the start of the story, Laymon puts it into the story after the reader has invested more time into it. It’s a bit of a gamble.

This is a Laymon novel, so it has its share of sex and perversions, though they don’t feel gratuitous here. The misogyny is restricted to the antagonist, so it’s more a characteristic to make us dislike him than it is something the author endorses. The only questionable moment I found in the book occurred when Lacey, who a few days previous has been so brutally raped that it was hard for her to lower herself into a bath, and she was asking herself if she would ever feel comfortable being touched again, hooks up with her love interest. Another author would have made that transition the entire story of their book, but Laymon glosses over it and moves on with his plot.

Speaking of the plot, Laymon seems to have a habit of ending his books rather abruptly. This time, at least, he goes beyond an abrupt ending and gives the reader some closure for the main characters. And it’s still a pretty thin plot, no matter how you look at it.

So, Beware! is an improvement, though it’s still not a great book. I can see Laymon’s style starting to form itself, and think that as I keep reading, the stories will improve. I’m still not sure if I’ll reach the point where I would recommend him without reservations. As far as his horror goes, it’s nothing original, and as far as his storytelling abilities, they’re nothing to put him over other authors. His stories (so far) seem sufficient, but that’s about it.

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