Custom House. Oct. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780062856395. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062856418. F
OrangeReviewStarHaving summoned a squiggly, writhing creature in her critically acclaimed The Essex Serpent, Perry conjures a different kind of monster, Melmoth, an ancient roving crone, dressed in black, and trailing whiffs of death and destruction. Helen Franklin is an English nonentity of a certain age residing in Prague. She happens on a musty manuscript setting out Melmoth's story. What could possibly link Helen with the monster? As with many monsters, Melmoth is cobbled from bits and bobs. There is Charles Maturin's 1820 classic gothic tale, Melmoth the Wanderer, traces of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, hints of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and "The Birds," and a large helping of original Perry. The author transforms the central figure from a male traveler into a female gazer, with looks that can kill.
VERDICT This is a dusty mansion, with small manuscript-filled rooms, creaky stairs, multiple twists and turns, and loads of angst. For readers who favor ghost stories as bedtime reading, this fever dream of a novel will prove as compelling and all-consuming as The Essex Serpent. [See Prepub Alert, 4/23/18.]
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