Beware by Richard Laymon – Horror Novel Review

Beware by Richard Laymon - Horror NovelFormat: NOOKbook
Publisher: Dorchester Publishing
Publication Year: 2008
Original Publication Year: 1985

I’m always a bit behind when it comes to latching onto popular trends. I didn’t develop a taste for grunge music until long after the form had died out, and I didn’t start watching Battlestar Galactica until the show had been off the air for a few years. I’m only now getting into the novels of Richard Laymon, who unfortunately passed away in 2001, (and I’m just now realizing that I’m writing this review on the 10th anniversary of his death) so once again I’ve finally gotten my snow shovel out of storage on the first day of Summer. Still, I’ve really enjoyed the Laymon books I’ve read so far, this one included, and he left behind a pretty impressive bibliography.

Hoffman’s Market is a mom and pop style grocery store that suddenly shows the signs of being haunted. Mrs. Hoffman sees the cash register open by itself one night, and a meat cleaver (yep, that one on the cover) comes flying out of nowhere, just barely missing a customer. Things quickly worsen when the owner Elsie Hoffman is found decapitated, her head neatly wrapped in cellophane and left on the store’s meat counter. Elsie’s mutilated remains are found by Lacey Allen, a reporter for the local paper, but before she can do anything she is knocked unconscious from behind.

Lacey awakens to find she has been sexually assaulted, but the horror has only just begun. She returns home but soon realizes she is not alone. Her attacker has hitched a ride in the backseat of her car, a feat made possible because he is invisible. Lacey manages to escape him by dousing him with flour to make him partially visible and running a knife through him, but being transparent also brings a stout constitution apparently and this only slows him down. Lacey escapes long enough to leave town, and she checks into a resort where she meets Scott, an adventure novel writer who finds Lacey attractive and her story intriguing.

Beware by Richard Laymon, cover 2Meanwhile, miles away, private eye and independent soldier of fortune Matt Dukane has been hired to rescue a young woman who has fallen in with a bizarre cult. This being a Richard Laymon novel, Dukane stages the rescue during a ritualistic orgy where we meet a mysterious woman named Laveda, the organization’s leader. Her followers believe her to have supernatural powers, including the ability to read minds. Is it possible these powers could also include making someone invisible?

Laymon books are not for the easily offended. The gore is over the top and the sex is almost ridiculously gratuitous. They play very much like a low budget exploitation horror movie from the 1970s, but with better writing. According to Wikipedia Laymon published 42 novels (some of which came out posthumously) but none have ever been adapted to film. Based on the three Laymon books I’ve read so far (Flesh, To Wake the Dead, and Beware) I can understand why. His books are a fun ride with plenty of action and engaging characters but his plots tend to be pretty simple, presumably making them less attractive to film makers.

Beware gave me the enjoyable read I had expected, although a few things like how Laveda’s cult managed to be so powerful and far-reaching and why people were so eager to follow her were glossed over. Still, this marks my third Laymon novel and so far I’m batting three for three.

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