A fast-moving, uncomplicated horror story, written in a very clear form. Actually, this is a traditional battle of good against evil, where evil very nearly wins the day - but doesn't, quite. It's a very visual story, all set inside a block of flats which is being renovated, with people and monster running up and down the back stairs and a bit of heaving around of inanimate bodies. I wonder if it was written with a view to being turned into a film?
There are three main characters, Hope and Danny, who are teenagers, and Victor Grundy. Hope and Danny are on the side of 'good'. They don't know each other to begin with. Hope lives in the block of flats, Camelot Heights, alone with her father because her mother has recently died. Danny is a walk-in thief, who comes from a difficult home background and can't organize anything better for himself.
On the day that this story begins Danny walks in to Victor Grundy's flat to see what he can steal. It's a poor choice because Victor Grundy is a man who is so full of hate that he has awoken the evil that sleeps in the deep. Grundy undergoes a transformation, into a hideous servant of evil, right in front of Danny's eyes. Danny is hiding underneath Grundy's bed, quaking:
Terrified to move, Danny watched on, though part of him was glad his view was obscured. The man's shape had changed beyond recognition now. He no longer looked like a man at all, though Danny couldn't say for sure what he - it - now looked like. Danny caught a glimpse of pebbled hide, scaled like armour, of thick ropes of muscle and tendon, a snub snout and teeth like daggers. A powerful back hunched over. And the eyes! They seemed to glow with a dull, red light, like the embers of a fire. The creature let out a triumphant hiss.
Smashed flat underneath the bed, Danny felt that he had stepped into a nightmare. And somewhere, far off in the back of his mind, in the middle of his fear and panic, Danny Winter made a solemn promise: if I can get away from here, I will NEVER do anything wrong again. EVER.
It's a promise, incidentally, that he keeps.
As Grundy, the monster, picks off the occupants of the flats, one by one, for his own evil purposes - actually, the evil purposes of his master, the evil that sleeps in the deep - Hope and Danny are left alone to fight the good fight.
The action is passed from one to another of these three characters as they tell the story. It's quite scary, but not, perhaps in the way you might expect to find it scary. The monster didn't particularly bother me. I feel as though I meet monsters like him practically every day, on television or in films, but I did find the state of conscious paralysis that Grundy reduces his victims to rather unnerving. And there is quite a lot of sheer, gibbering fright:
Hope heard footsteps from the living room beyond. She squeezed her eyes shut. She could feel her heart beating all over her body, under her arms and high in her throat and in her temples. She wasn't even aware that she was holding her breath as she listened to the soft pad of feet on carpet. The beast was coming this way.
Bit of a romp, really.
What can I read next?
There's a short story by Mark Morris which you might like to get your teeth into - or vice versa:
You might enjoy this one by Pauline Fisk:
Or you might like to look at this one by Alison Prince:
And this one by Marcus Sedgwick is worth a look:
Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:
- The Man Who Was Hate by Paul Shipton (Score: 100%)
- Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (Score: 93%)
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Score: 93%)
- Raven's Gate by Anthony Horowitz (Score: 93%)
- Other Echoes by Adele Geras (Score: 89%)
The Man Who Was Hate features in these lists: