Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beware by Richard Laymon

When you take a look around the Horror section of my personal library, only Stephen King and maybe Dean Koontz are represented with more volumes than Richard Laymon. When it comes to horror, it is hard to top Laymon in many categories. He is brilliant at getting you to deeply care about characters very quickly, his writing style is both fast paced and descriptive, and he doesn’t waste words. His books aren’t necessarily the biggest of deep-thinkers, but for sheer fun, they are hard to beat in genre, if you are willing to enter a world of horror-movie levels of violence and gore. So it was with a lot of excitement and hope that I picked up Beware.

A small town market is terrorized by an invisible entity that first vandalizes, then murders. However, this thing turns out to be far more than an unfriendly ghost, and as ties to a witch-cult are revealed, its up to a reporter, a crime author, and a kidnapper to save the day.

Beware continues the Laymon trademark of quickly getting involved with characters, as well as over-the-top violence. The scene is quickly set, and you jump right into the story. However, things go downhill a bit from there. The invisible man (as it is revealed to be very quickly) and the witch cult both felt like tacked on supernatural effects to make it fit more into this vein, but the story read very much like a straight crime-thriller. There is nothing at all wrong with a good crime novel, but the tacked on supernatural elements made the two genres jar against each other, rather than coalesce.

The writing was solidly done, but the story just paled in comparison to other Laymon works, which show a much smoother plot. This one just felt a little cobbled together and rushed. The ending also left me a bit displeased. Beware isn’t a bad novel. It just isn’t a great one like I have come to expect from the work of the late Laymon. I would suggest this one more to people who are already big Laymon fans, and who can pick out the characteristically Laymon bits and enjoy those, but I would point people new to Laymon to other books as a better first taste of the author. For Laymon-ites only.


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