OTHERS by James Herbert


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Prolific horror writer Herbert (Portent, 1996, etc.) revives a sentimental favorite, Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo, dresses him up in a modern setting, and sends him forth as Nicholas Dismas, private investigator. Dismas was so malformed at birth—hunchback, spinal curvature, twisted and withered right leg, birdboned chest, a forehead overlapping his eyes, overlarge ears, flat nose, backhair that formed a tail between his buttocks, and so on—that his mother left the newborn monster by the trash bins behind a nun’s convent in a poorer part of London. A prologue set in Hell reveals that Dismas is actually a damned soul, a once irresistibly handsome movie star who is being given one last chance at redemption. This time around, he must live in an exemplary fashion completely at odds with his former evil ways—which he will not be allowed to remember. Thus, Nick Dismas struggles daily with God: why has he been born such a hideous monster to suffer an entire lifetime of humiliation, vilification, and punishment? (The reader knows: every card is stacked against Dismas’s atonement.) Now, he’s hired by widow Shelly Ripstone to find the bastard she bore before she married. Shelly never saw her baby, having been told by the hospital that it died almost at birth. But Louise Broomfield, a clairvoyant, has confirmed Shelly’s intuition that the child lives. Will Dismas find it for her? As birds and whisperings invade Dismas’s mind, Herbert leads his hero into ever more shocking traps while dropping in spells of garden silences under vast clear-blue skies. All clues lead to the Perfect Rest nursing home, whose care-supervisor has the same malformed body as Dismas but an inner beauty that rings bells: her name, Constance Bell (—The bells, the bells!) Midway, the gore gathers and the plot veers into The Island of Doctor Moreau territory. Even so, Nick Dismas remains one of the most tenderly drawn monsters since Hugo’s bell-ringer. ($75,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-87293-3
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999


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