What Rough Beast, by H.R. Knight

>> Thursday, April 26, 2007

Though I don't really read much in the genre, I do like well-written horror. What Rough Beast (excerpt, etc.), by H.R. Knight seemed interesting.

Harry Houdini asks Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to help him expose Maximillian Cairo—a spiritualist medium. But the two men underestimate Cairo. He's a master of the occult and the most debauched man in London. Conan Doyle and Houdini get more than they bargained for when they interrupt a magic ritual and accidentally set loose a force for ecstasy and chaos on an unsuspecting Edwardian London.

Soon one of their friends is falsely accused of a grisly murder. Conan Doyle and Houdini are sure the real killer was at the ritual with them. They're faced with a locked-room homicide that baffles even Houdini.

One by one, people in the little group who attended the ceremony feel an insidious influence creep over them. Each succumbs to a burst of creativity, shortly followed by an act of uncontrollable madness.

The proper Victorian gentleman and the ebullient New Yorker must team up to solve the murder and stop the thing they set loose before it completely unravels their ordered world.
It's 1903, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visits London with his son to get a small respite from nursing his dying wife. He and the boy go to see Harry Houdini's show, and the two men strike a friendly acquaintance. When Houdini asks Conan Doyle to help him expose a fraud who's preying on a friend of his, Sir Arthur agrees.

So as you see, the narrator of WRB is someone who really existed: none other than the famous creator of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. And he's not the only real historical character who's involved in the story: Though we don't get Houdini's POV, he's practically the co-protagonist. To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of using real people as characters, but I thought I'd keep an open mind about it and see how it went. Plus, I liked the idea of the notoriously gullible Conan Doyle teaming up with that professional skeptic, Houdini to investigate a fake medium.

Anyway, it turns out the "fake medium" is actually mixed up with some truly dangerous and truly supernatural stuff, and when Houdini interrupts a ritual, something terrifying is released into the world, alternately possessing all those who were present and making them give in to their basest impulses. And when one of them is accused of murder, Conan Doyle decides he needs to get to the bottom of things.

And that's as far as I got, more or less. This is not a bad book, but I never really got engaged in the story, and I read roughly half of it. I read up to page 180 or so, and that much took me about two weeks. I'm not really sure what the problem was. I would guess part of it was my lingering discomfort at some of the things these versions of Conan Doyle and Houdini (who I couldn't forget were real persons) are made to think and do.

The other part, I suppose, is lack of interest in what would happen. Oh, I would like to know how that mysterious third person got out of the locked murder room, but not enough to slog through the second half of the book. And I don't care in the least what will happen with the dangerous spirit flitting all over London.

A disappointing DNF.


Post a Comment

Blog template by simplyfabulousbloggertemplates.com

Back to TOP