Published by Hydra on November 17th 2015
The Beast of Barcroft went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting, in fact, on reflection, I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but whatever it was this surpassed it in many ways and I hope there will be more instalments in the future.
We start the story finding out about the neighbour from hell, Madeleine Roux. Well, that’s probably a bit of an extreme description but it’s certainly the way her neighbours feel about her. Madeleine likes to feed the birds and critters. Basically, each and every day she places food out on her back porch. Unfortunately, as you may know, or have found out, if you place food outside it doesn’t just attract the soft and fluffy animals that you want – it attracts everything, free food is free food and nothing gets attracted more to a big mess of vittles than vermin and Barcroft is swiftly becoming overrun. Pull up a pipe in your garden and it will likely be followed out by a slick wave of rats.
Ben McKelvie and his girlfriend have just bought a house in the area thinking they were moving up a little in the world. Little did they suspect that their own neighbour would cause them such a problem but I guess the lesson here is to check into the neighbourhood before you throw your hat into the ring. Anyway, a long story short, Ben becomes involved in the neighbourly battle to try and stop Madeleine encouraging yet more vermin onto the surrounding properties. He also suffers a family loss and, having become a bit embittered and grumpy about life in general his girlfriend finally decides enough is enough and up sticks and leaves. She at least leaves him with the dog. Well, about the dog – yeah, the problem with all sorts of critters being attracted to the area is that bigger predators follow in their wake and Ben’s dog becomes the victim of a most unlikely predator.
Now, the neighbours are up in arms, the local authority can do very little, the local police seem disinterested at most and Ben, in desperation, enlists the help of a curator from the National Zoo.
I’m not going to go into the plot at all, other than the above of course.
What we have here is a rather sneaky story that leads you off down one route, in a very nicely written and plotted way, only to find yourself taking a different fork in the road completely. I found this fast paced and really quite intriguing not to mention down right creepy as the momentum builds.
The setting is the suburbs. Nothing new to see here. Beyond the immaculate gardens is a strip of woodland with a river running through it – the Four Mile Run Trail. It all sounds really quite lovely and if it wasn’t for whatever is lurking in the shadows in the woods it probably would be. Something has come to Bancroft, something evil, something not easily banished, it knows your fears and is stalking in the shadows.
The characters. Ben, is a little difficult to like at first. He’s quite abrasive and angry but I did end up feeling quite exasperated alongside him when his reports of predators were taken so lightly and he does eventually endear himself to you. Lindsay is quite a likeable character. Hard working and dedicated to the things she enjoys. As soon as she finds out about the predator in the neighbourhood she pretty much throws herself into the search putting herself at great risk. Then we have Richard Severance, a cryptozoologist and his buddy Dr Alex Standing Cloud, who is an expert on Native American studies. What I can say is that these two are a pair of show stealing characters – I really liked them – they didn’t have a major role but when they put in an appearance you certainly knew about it.
Overall I really enjoyed this. I found it incredibly creepy in parts and in fact quite scared myself reading it one evening when I stayed up late by myself – of course, I’m sure seasoned horror readers would probably find me a little lily livered and take this in their stride but it gave me a serious case of the heebee geebies. I thought the writing was smooth and the author builds the tension really well. And, let’s not forget the creepy house next door. I’ve not said much about it for the purpose of not giving things away but the house next door is a sinister place that practically exudes menace.
Now, I hope I’ve whetted your appetite a little. I would certainly read more instalments – I have no idea if more are planned but one can but hope.