Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ghost Monster / by Simon Clark

In the isolated English coastal village of Crowdale is a very old and decrepit cemetery, obsolete except for one very unusual feature. Situated at the graveyard's center is an oddly well-kept mausoleum interring the remains of the notorious Murrain clan, a once very powerful and feared family. Most notably the structure houses the gravesite ofJustice Murrain, the ancient family patriarch over whose tomb is embedded a most foreboding mosaic image of a demon. Long dead for centuries, the gravisite's contents nevertheless remain under constant, solemn vigil, monitored over the years by subsequent Murrains who try to keep in what everyone fears (and the Murrains know) could get out. For legendary are the stories from long ago which tell of the deranged (some say otherworldly) Justice Murrain and his demoniacal brood who once ran the town of Crowdale with a bloodthirsty iron fist, their exploits culminating in the torturous deaths of over a thousand villagers in the span of only a few decades.
Following the overthrow and particularly violent execution of Justice Murrain, the mausoleum was constructed to help ensure that that his unearthly spirit could never enter back into the land of the living. Since then, the Murrains have lived as outcasts. Doomed by the sins of their forebears to an oath of renunciation and the lonely task of securing their ancestor's imprisonment, their lineage is seen as cursed, their blood tainted with each succeeding generation the object of perpetual scorn and derision from the local populous. Now though, as soil erosion and an ambitious archaeological dig break down the earth beneath the mausoleum, Jacob Murrain (the eldest living Murrain descendant) fights against time and nature to preserve the unconsecrated ground under which his ancestor's dormant soul resides. Secretly though, Jacob cannot keep back the thoughts permeating his subconscious, voices which hint at defying his sworn duty as a guardian sentinel and avenging the Murrain name by granting release to his ancestor, effectively setting Justice Murrain free to terrorize mankind once again. 
Ghost Monster is a mass market novel but it's not a bad book, packing some punch as a worthwhile scare fest. The storyline in which an ancient evil revisits the present from beyond the grave is in itself nothing new. Graves and cemeteries, the dead rising, ages-old vendettas and demonic possession are a staple of classic horror stories, so much so that original ideas outside these parameters are somewhat suspect. But Clark cleverly devises modifications to this tried-and-true mold which give a nuanced spin to the plot providing the story a solid level of freshness and originality. Clark writes well, too, with an appeal which gets the reader interested quickly and manages to sustain the intrigue through the middle and later sections. Well-articulated characters, ominous overtones, eerie unnatural occurrences as well as a good amount of grisly gore and romantic suspense tinged with eroticism all combine to elevate the story to a solid horror experience just in time for Halloween. (FIC CLARK)

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