Thursday, October 22, 2020

31 Days of Halloween - Day 22 - Book

A Beastly Business by John Blackburn. Valancourt Books. 1982.

When Bill Easter and his girlfriend become seriously overdrawn with their bank account he finds help from an unlikely source, the head of his bank. The banker hires him to discretely dispose of a dead lodger in his home. After Easter destroys the corpse he discovers it has a tremendous reward attached to it as it belongs to a serial killer. Easter then discovers that the killer may have hid an extremely valuable bit of treasure on a Scottish island where all of the local animals seem to have gone berserk. He's coerced into doing work for a British agent and a terrifying egotistical adventurer, and becomes involved in a plot involving possible Soviet intrigue, Nazi mad scientists, and a curse on the treasure he's trying to recover. There are also werewolves.

With ingredients like that, how can you go wrong? Blackburn is also the author of numerous notable books including the classic, A Scent of New, Mown Hay. This book seemed to be right up my alley. It was fun, but ultimately disappointing. The book is a slight 159 pages, and is also told from the first person point of view of Bill easter, so we only know what he knows, except for the first the last chapter anyway. This means that a lot of those very intriguing ingredients only come into play for a few pages. There's not enough suspense to make it an exciting adventure novel, not enough fright to make it a horror novel, and too many questions and scenarios without answers to make it a satisfying mystery novel. J. Moldon Mott, the arrogant adventurer is possibly the most intriguing character, and certainly makes a dramatic first appearance. I couldn't wait for more of him later on, but he only returns as a figure in the distance in one sentence and then done away with in an off the page incident.  This is the problem overall, things are introduced and dropped without any follow through all throughout the story. If Will Easter wasn't directly involved, we often didn't get the information we craved. The werewolves? About one page. This book told in a semi omniscient style with about two hundred more pages added to it would probably have made for a gripping novel. As it is, it was a quick, well written, frustrating, and ultimately unsatisfactory read.

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