TBR Challenge 2019 – The Beetle by Richard Marsh

Genre: Horror

Narrative Style: Various first person narratives

Rating: 2/5

Published: 1897

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: The story starts when down on his luck Robert Holt breaks into a seemingly deserted house. He encounters an androgynous creature who is able to control humans with some strange hypnotism. He is then forced to visit the home of local politician Paul Lessingham, the focus of the creature’s animosity. The narrative becomes a chase with Lessingham and friends on the trail of the strange creature.

Reading challenges: TBR Challenge 2019

Time on shelf: This was an early kindle purchase – about 2014. I downloaded a lot of early horror, such as The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Werewolf of Paris. Not sure why this one didn’t get read then. 

This was disappointing. The first part of the story – told by Holt – is gripping and it isn’t obvious what will happen in the rest of the book. The creature is suitably sinister and the way it controls Holt is disturbing. However, as soon as the narrator changes, the story goes downhill.

The next narrator, scientist and inventor, Sidney Atherton is incredibly annoying, not to mention rather wordy. The narrative tension suffers because of the long winded style. Events are described that have little bearing on the story. His encounters with the creature are unsatisfying as are the romantic machinations between himself and Marjorie Lindon.

With every change of narrator, I lost a little more interest. The story meandered and the ending was disappointing and didn’t really resolve any of the mystery surrounding the creature and where it had come from.

There was also a troubling xenophobic aspect. The creature often took the form of an ‘Arab’ and was attributed all sorts of mysterious powers. It smacked of colonialism and the fear of the other. This would seem particularly troubling when you consider that the men could not decide if the creature was male or female – but suspected the latter. This only added to their disgust. This did not always make for comfortable reading.

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