An evil, hellish entity attacks a small town in Washington, creating minions and plotting the destruction of humankind in this horror yarn.
When pregnant Elizabeth Holly is abducted by crazy ex-reverend Old Man Wilson, her husband, John, and daughter, Julia, manage to save her and her infant son. But Julia fears it may have been more than a mere kidnapping when her new baby brother, Waed, sports “the face of evil”—a twisted expression, dark eyes, and a long, thin tongue. Later, a nurse, following what seem to be Waed’s telepathic instructions, cuts hearts from people’s chests and flees the hospital with the child. Waed rapidly grows into the Beast and assaults citizens in Autumntown, either killing or infecting them, slowly building an army of creatures at his command. The townsfolk, including detective partners Del Camron and Jack Richards, soon learn the Beast is the Dark One, the guardian of darkness, with aspirations for hell to reign on Earth. Not quite at full power, the Beast needs to consume three particular kinds of hearts. Del, Jack, and others arm themselves to battle tentacled creatures, eventually called Leapers, and hopefully find a way to kill the Beast. The novel certainly isn’t short on action, with a myriad of confrontations between humans and monsters, making it sometimes hard to keep up with the scores of characters filling the pages. Moore (The Adventures of PJ and Split Pea Vol. II, 2010, etc.) wisely names a few of the more formidable Leapers, like Dairitch, the sinister soul of a trickster infused with an infected human. Conversely, some of the humans barely register, introduced immediately prior to their deaths or transformations into nameless creatures. Nevertheless, the back story involving a character’s father provides a strange but enthralling origin for the Beast, or at least explains why he chose Autumntown. The Beast, too, becomes gradually more terrifying as he garners more powers, such as levitation. The narrative does have its lighter moments; the humans’ surprisingly effective homemade defense, “monster acid” (a clever concoction best left unspoiled for readers), paves the way for cheerworthy combat moments.
Nuance becomes a little lost in the mix of monsters and humans, but an unwavering pace promises unending entertainment.