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The Beetle: A Mystery (eBook)

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Egypt, a supernatural, mystery, and an unknown creature are all found in this 1897 novel by Richard March. The Beetle is the story of a creature born of neither God nor man. This monsterous creature stalks British politician, Paul Lessingham. The creature uses its hypnotic powers to find Paul and exact the revenge it seeks for the defilement of a tomb in Egypt. Marsh uses Egypt, a supernatural, mystery, and an unknown creature are all found in this 1897 novel by Richard March. The Beetle is the story of a creature born of neither God nor man. This monsterous creature stalks British politician, Paul Lessingham. The creature uses its hypnotic powers to find Paul and exact the revenge it seeks for the defilement of a tomb in Egypt. Marsh uses the current interest of Londoners in hypnosis and animal magnetism to increase the terror in his story. This is a story not for the faint of heart.


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Egypt, a supernatural, mystery, and an unknown creature are all found in this 1897 novel by Richard March. The Beetle is the story of a creature born of neither God nor man. This monsterous creature stalks British politician, Paul Lessingham. The creature uses its hypnotic powers to find Paul and exact the revenge it seeks for the defilement of a tomb in Egypt. Marsh uses Egypt, a supernatural, mystery, and an unknown creature are all found in this 1897 novel by Richard March. The Beetle is the story of a creature born of neither God nor man. This monsterous creature stalks British politician, Paul Lessingham. The creature uses its hypnotic powers to find Paul and exact the revenge it seeks for the defilement of a tomb in Egypt. Marsh uses the current interest of Londoners in hypnosis and animal magnetism to increase the terror in his story. This is a story not for the faint of heart.

30 review for The Beetle: A Mystery (eBook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    "A face looked into mine, and, in front of me, were those dreadful eyes. Then, whether I was dead or living, I said to myself that this could be nothing human,--nothing fashioned in God's image could wear such a shape as that. Fingers were pressed into my cheeks, they were thrust into my mouth, they touched my staring eyes, shut my eyelids, then opened them again, and--horror of horrors!--the blubber lips were pressed to mine--the soul of something evil entered into me in the guise of a kiss." O "A face looked into mine, and, in front of me, were those dreadful eyes. Then, whether I was dead or living, I said to myself that this could be nothing human,--nothing fashioned in God's image could wear such a shape as that. Fingers were pressed into my cheeks, they were thrust into my mouth, they touched my staring eyes, shut my eyelids, then opened them again, and--horror of horrors!--the blubber lips were pressed to mine--the soul of something evil entered into me in the guise of a kiss." OMG those LIPS those EYES!!! The Beetle was published in 1897 the same year as the Bram Stoker's classic book Dracula. Initially The Beetle outsold Dracula, but as word got around the Stoker book became the hit of the season. I pulled up a time line to see what else of significance happened in 1897 and the one interesting literary tidbit that jumped out at me was it was the year that Marcel Proust fought a pistol duel with Jean Lorrain. What I know about Proust it seems so improbable, but there you have it mentioned on a history timeline. I'm sure the Proustians among us can confirm or deny the validity of that occurrence. The story is told by four narrators. The first by Robert Holt, a man who has fallen on hard times. Caught in a downpour, he sees an open window, and in a moment of desperation to secure shelter from the drumming on his head he enters the house. He finds a creature there that goes way beyond his imagination to comprehend. He is stripped naked, mounted, fondled, and kissed most vile. He is mesmerized and turned into a...ZOMBIE. Poor Robert Holt, a man no longer worried about the weather The second narrator is Sydney Atherton, a brilliant scientist in love with Majorie Lindon, but who should be in love with Dora Grayling. Don't worry as the story progresses the women get him straightened out on this fact. He is drawn into the action of this story by his association with Lindon and more importantly by her association with Paul Lessingham. He sees a transformation that tests the bounds of what he believes to be true of the natural world. "The light was full on, so that it was difficult to suppose that I could make a mistake as to what took place in front of me. As he replied to my mocking allusion to the beetle by echoing my own words, he vanished,--or, rather, I saw him taking a different shape before my eyes. His loose draperies all fell off him, and, as they were in the very act of falling, there issued, or there seemed to issue out of them, a monstrous creature of the beetle type, --the man himself was gone. On the point of size I wish ot make myself clear. My impersion, when I saw it first, was that it was as large as the man had been, and that it was, in some way, standing up on end, the legs towards me. But, the moment it came in view, it began to dwindle, and that so rapidly that, in a couple o seconds at mos,t a little heap of drapery was lying on the floor, on which was a truly astonishing example of the coleoptera. It appeared to be a beetle. It was perhaps, six or seven inches high, and about a foot in length. Its scales were of a vivid golden green. I could distinctly see where the the wings were sheathed along the back, and, as they seemed to be slightly agitated, I looked, every moment, to see them opened, and the thing take wing. The third narrator is Majorie Lindon who is engaged to Paul Lessingham. She enlists the aid of Atherton to help her discover what is troubling her fiance. This is a most cruel assignment as Atherton is a most bitter rival of Lessingham for the love of Majorie, and the last thing he wants to do is help him. The last narrator is Augustus Champnell a confidential agent who is brought into the plot by the solicitation by Paul Lessingham for help. His objective thinking does turn out to be a key to resolving the case. Now it turns out that this creature is a follower of Isis and has pursued Paul Lessingham from Cairo to London to exact revenge. Lessingham took a walk on the wild side along the Rue de Rabagas while he was in Cairo and drank the drink the young lady offered him and woke up on a pile of rags. Isis "By my side knelt the Woman of the Songs. Leaning over, she wooed my mouth with kisses. I cannot describe to you the sense of horror and of loathing with which the contact of her lips oppressed me. There was about her something so unnatural, so inhuman, that I believed even then I would have destroyed her with as little sense of moral turpitude as if she had been some noxious insect. Lessingham escapes and brings the horror back to London where he is just beginning a promising political career. I usually try to include a picture of the author in my reviews. Below is the only picture I could find. Richard Marsh A very mysterious man this Richard Marsh. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is of course pulp horror so if you are looking for a more literary work I would suggest Dracula. This book is well written for the genre and certainly intriguing from the stand point of presenting some of the fears of the Victorian Age. This is considered Marsh's best book, but I will certainly not hesitate to read another of his books. If anyone has enjoyed other books besides Wilkie Collins that falls into this genre please share your suggestions.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. Set in London amidst the Victorian era, The Beetle gives the testimonial account of four characters whose lives intersect as they struggle to solve the mystery behind a terrifying creature – a gruesome beetle originating from Egyptian lore – sent to enact revenge on a British politician. As a gothic novel, The Beetle’s claim to fame is that it was published in 1897 – the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula a Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. Set in London amidst the Victorian era, The Beetle gives the testimonial account of four characters whose lives intersect as they struggle to solve the mystery behind a terrifying creature – a gruesome beetle originating from Egyptian lore – sent to enact revenge on a British politician. As a gothic novel, The Beetle’s claim to fame is that it was published in 1897 – the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and, for the first twelve months after publication, outsold Stoker’s eminent novel. Through its four protagonists – Robert Holt, Sydney Atherton, Marjorie Lindon, and Augustus Champnell – Marsh explores multiple genres within one book. Horror is the defining element of Robert Holt’s encounter with the beetle. Starving and desperate for shelter, he crawls through an open window in a seemingly abandoned house and finds himself face-to-face with an unknown entity in the pitch dark. I became, on a sudden, aware, that something was with me in the room. There was nothing, ostensibly, to lead me to such a conviction; it may be that my faculties were unnaturally keen; but, all at once, I knew that there was something there. What was more, I had a horrible persuasion that, though unseeing, I was seen; that my every movement was being watched. In tantalizing fragments, the many-legged creature creeping through the darkness materializes in the reader’s imagination, and Holt’s fear is quickly justified. From the account given by Sydney Atherton, Marsh delights readers with social drama and unrequited love. Politics, the demands of polite society, and a torrid exchange of love letters command Atherton’s attention, though he’s distracted by his affection for Miss Marjorie Lindon and by a rogue encounter with the hellish beetle. Many would seek to explain-away the horrid sight of the beetle, but Atherton embraces the prospect of the supernatural. That all things are possible I unhesitatingly believe – I have, even in my short time, seen so many so-called impossibilities proved possible. That we know everything, I doubt; that our great-great-great-great grandsires, our forebears of thousands of years ago, of the extinct civilizations, knew more on some subjects than we do, I think is, at least, probable. All the legends can hardly be false. Testament to what would have been contemporary social issues at the time of its publication, Miss Marjorie Lindon emerges as a progressive female figure. She’s beautiful, her dance card is always full, and she’s pursued by two men, but Miss Lindon is not your average female. Rather than being demure and obedient, Miss Lindon proudly asserts an interest in suffragist politics and defies her father at every turn. It’s a shame that the men who long for her hand in marriage unintentionally pull her into the mystery of the beetle, for she is afraid of only one thing . . . My whole life long I have had an antipathy to beetles – of any sort or kind. I have objected neither to rats nor mice, nor cows, nor bulls, nor snakes, nor spiders, nor toads, nor lizards, nor any of the thousand and one creatures, animate or otherwise, to which so many people have a rooted, and, apparently, illogical dislike. My pet – and only – horror has been beetles. Finally, the fourth leg of Marsh’s book is an homage to the classic detective novel à la Sherlock Holmes. The honorable Augustus Champnell, confidential agent, arrives to investigate the mysterious happenings involving the skittering beetle. Blending crime fiction with horror, Champnell reveals his own experience with dark forces. I can only suppose that through all those weeks she had kept me there in a state of mesmeric stupor. That, taking advantage of the weakness which the fever had left behind, by the exercise of her diabolical arts, she had not allowed me to pass out of a condition of hypnotic trance. Champnell arrives just in time to assert his investigative prowess and, in due time, it becomes necessary to give chase to the beetle, closing out the story in a race against time before one or more lives are lost. Due to the year in which it was first published, The Beetle includes some racially insensitive terms. Less offensive, though somewhat irritating, it’s four-character format lends itself to some repetition. Articulately constructed and unduly forgotten, The Beetle is an intriguing examination of social concerns relevant to Victorian London and a thrilling horror novel.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jack Tripper

    Review to come, eventually. Damn my new job and all the hours it's taking away from me. I will say that it starts off great. Then it was just long-winded and boring as hell until the end (I know, such great analysis there). Three stars may be too generous. 2.5 Stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    The Beetle may not be the greatest book in terms of literary value, but I will say that it is a hell of a lot of fun to read. To me it is the literary equivalent of comfort food, and its Egyptian flavor along with all of its over-the-top moments remind me a lot of the old pulpy horror/gothic books I devoured as a nerdy kid on rainy days. It seems that no matter where I turn to find a literary review of this novel, everyone wants to compare it to Bram Stoker's Dracula. The two books were publishe The Beetle may not be the greatest book in terms of literary value, but I will say that it is a hell of a lot of fun to read. To me it is the literary equivalent of comfort food, and its Egyptian flavor along with all of its over-the-top moments remind me a lot of the old pulpy horror/gothic books I devoured as a nerdy kid on rainy days. It seems that no matter where I turn to find a literary review of this novel, everyone wants to compare it to Bram Stoker's Dracula. The two books were published in the same year, both stories are related through the use of journal entries from the principal players, both imagine an evil force coming into England from outside for its own wicked and abominable purposes, and in both books, the vile alien threat has to be neutralized to keep England from peril. Yet, while I see that between the two, in terms of "literary" value, most people prefer Stoker's book, to me Dracula wasn't nearly as entertaining. The Beetle is a lovely, unputdownable mix of supernatural horror, revenge tale, creepy gothic fiction and mystery all rolled into one, and bottom line, it's just plain fun. Sometimes the fun is what it's all about -- and that's definitely the case here. There are four narrators in this novel; the first is Robert Holt whose bizarre story throws us right into the midst of the strange. Entering a deserted house to escape the rain after having been denied lodging at the modern equivalent of a homeless shelter, he is set upon by a "creature" that reminds him of a spider (the "Beetle" of the title). As he tries to make his escape back out the window, suddenly a light comes on in the house and Holt finds himself face to face with a deformed man whose eyes were his most "marked" feature. As Holt notes, "Escape them I could not, while, as I endeavored to meet them, it was as if I shrivelled into nothingness. They held me enchained, helpless, spell-bound. I felt that the could do with me as they would; and they did." Holt discovers that he has no choice but to do what he is commanded by this horrific figure and he is ordered to break into the home of Paul Lessingham, member of Parliament. While carrying out his task, he is confronted by Lessingham who is stopped in his tracks when Holt screams out "THE BEETLE!" Holt's narrative sets the tone for the remainder of the story, which is revealed in turns from the points of view of Sydney Atherton, an inventor of weapons who just happens to be in love with Lessingham's love Marjorie Lindon, Miss Lindon herself, and the Honorable Augustus Champnell, Confidential Agent. It is during this last section that we discover exactly why this threat has appeared in England and why it is targeting Lessingham (and through him, Miss Lindon) specifically. Barebones outline, for sure, but there's a LOT churning around in this novel. Under its surface, though, as Minna Vuohelainen explains in the introduction, Marsh also explores "constant, traumautic shifting of class, social, gendered, sexual, ethnic and national identities." How all of these thematic elements are manifested becomes pretty self evident without having to seek them out, especially in terms of sexuality. I would imagine that this was a pretty daring tale back in 1897 -- for one thing, we don't even leave the first section before Holt in his hypnotized state is set upon sexually by the Beetle in masculine form, although this creature can also manifest itself as a woman. For another, Lessingham's account, as given to Champnell, refers to a strange cult that kidnaps English victims, both male and female, holding them for prolonged periods to be used in strange rituals involving torture and sexual depravity. I suppose one could also read the novel as a story that plays on the fear of invasion by foreign elements or fear of those outsiders already living among the English, obviously with sinister intentions toward England's men and women. Recommended, without any hesitation whatsoever. Even if it's a little silly sometimes, it is truly a delight. Once again, my thanks to Valancourt Books for publishing some of the finest old books ever.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy Sturgis

    The Beetle was published in the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), and there are many aspects of the two gothic novels that are similar: the multiple narrators, the exotic and mysterious supernatural threat, the remarkable sense of place. The Beetle initially was the more popular novel, and I can appreciate its appeal. It's got a little bit of everything sensational, from orgies, shape shifters, and human sacrifice to cross-dressing, hypnotized victims, Isis worship, and dead bodies in d The Beetle was published in the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), and there are many aspects of the two gothic novels that are similar: the multiple narrators, the exotic and mysterious supernatural threat, the remarkable sense of place. The Beetle initially was the more popular novel, and I can appreciate its appeal. It's got a little bit of everything sensational, from orgies, shape shifters, and human sacrifice to cross-dressing, hypnotized victims, Isis worship, and dead bodies in disreputable hotels. In the end, it did not quite compare with Dracula for me, and the fault perhaps lies mostly with its characters, who overall were less sympathetic and well formed. The pacing also seemed uneven at times. Despite these quibbles, this is a "must read" for lovers and students of the gothic -- especially those who have already read and enjoyed its contemporaries such as Dracula and George du Maurier's Trilby (1894), both of which I recommend.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hesper

    This sounded so tremendous, and then it turned out to be your standard Victorian Orientalist hissy fit with a healthy side of period-appropriate sexism. Yay. In fairness, the first part is elegantly creepy, so that alone is worth a read. However, that momentum is simply not sustained throughout, in spite of some snappy dialogue here and there. The book fails as a weird tale but succeeds as a social document of its era's anxieties regarding gender roles and imperialist attitudes. Except that's not This sounded so tremendous, and then it turned out to be your standard Victorian Orientalist hissy fit with a healthy side of period-appropriate sexism. Yay. In fairness, the first part is elegantly creepy, so that alone is worth a read. However, that momentum is simply not sustained throughout, in spite of some snappy dialogue here and there. The book fails as a weird tale but succeeds as a social document of its era's anxieties regarding gender roles and imperialist attitudes. Except that's not what enticed me to read it. I'm still stuck on giant vengeful Svengali beetle. There needs to be more literature about that.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stela

    It was a pleasant surprise, this book. Very readable in a totally unpretentious way, a typical Victorian gothic story, which seems to have been more successful than Dracula at its apparition (both were published the same year) but was eclipsed by the latter in time, unduly, I’d say. There is nothing really extraordinary in its structure, which resembles Dracula’s and many other novels’ of the nineteenth century – with its several narrative voices that intend to increase the contrast between real It was a pleasant surprise, this book. Very readable in a totally unpretentious way, a typical Victorian gothic story, which seems to have been more successful than Dracula at its apparition (both were published the same year) but was eclipsed by the latter in time, unduly, I’d say. There is nothing really extraordinary in its structure, which resembles Dracula’s and many other novels’ of the nineteenth century – with its several narrative voices that intend to increase the contrast between real and fantastic, nor in the shaping of the characters’, which are not very complex (with one exception), nor in the ambiguity of its end, which insinuates that evil is everywhere, waiting to surface. No, as any horror book that is true to form, The Beetle relies mainly on the tension generated by the plot to attract its readers, and the plot, with its allusions to ancient rituals, barbaric sacrifices and sexual perversions, is interesting enough. However, there is more (isn’t it always?). To begin with, it is noteworthy the author’s ability to describe the fear, the pure and naked fear that contaminates the reader: Higher and higher! It had gained my loins. It was moving towards the pit of my stomach. The helplessness with which I suffered its invasion was not the least part of my agony,— it was that helplessness which we know in dreadful dreams. I understood, quite well, that if I did but give myself a hearty shake, the creature would fall off; but I had not a muscle at my command. But this desire to capitalize on the darkness of our subconscious is cleverly counterbalanced by a fine irony that eases the tension and allows the reader to notice some interesting facts: various aspects of different levels of British society, the never-ending political war between radicals and Tories, the true purpose of scientific discoveries, etc. With a merciless sarcasm, Sydney Atherton delivers two undeniable truths. One about the infinite power of the scientist: What a sublime thought to think that in the hollow of your own hand lies the life and death of Nations. The other about the quality of the politician’s followers: … it is essential to a politician that he should have his firmest friends among the fools; or his climbing days will soon be over. Finally, Paul Lessingham, with his mixture of weakness and moral strength in both his public and private image could have become a memorable character, should have he been fully developed. If it is not so, maybe the fault lies not entirely with the author’s lack of skill but also with the reader’s horizon of expectation regarding the genre. After all, no matter how talented, Richard Marsh is no Edgar Poe.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason Hyde

    So far, so splendid. The Beetle was first published in 1897, the same year as Dracula, which it outsold consistently for the next 25 years or so, until the Hamilton Deane play revived interest in Stoker's book and made the Count the cultural icon he is today, while Marsh's book fell into undeserved obscurity. There are a lot of similarities between the two, from the shifting narrators (admittedly done better and with greater complexity in Dracula) to their stories, both of which involve sinister f So far, so splendid. The Beetle was first published in 1897, the same year as Dracula, which it outsold consistently for the next 25 years or so, until the Hamilton Deane play revived interest in Stoker's book and made the Count the cultural icon he is today, while Marsh's book fell into undeserved obscurity. There are a lot of similarities between the two, from the shifting narrators (admittedly done better and with greater complexity in Dracula) to their stories, both of which involve sinister foreigners wreaking havoc on the fabric of proper Victorian society. Both deal with the social concerns of that society, and both address the coming of the emancipated (although not too emancipated) New Woman then emerging. What The Beetle really has going for it, though, is an air of decadent perversity that far surpasses anything in Dracula. The first section, in particular, is quite charged with androgyny and ambiguous sexuality, and it really should have been illustrated by Beardsley, or even better, Austin Osman Spare (sort of a less classy Beardsley during this period). The air of decadence dissolves with the second section, which concerns itself more with the social structure of polite, upper-class Victorian society. A bit too much so, actually, although the second narrator, Sydney Atherton, is delightfully amoral, and the dialogue is witty enough to almost pass as Wildean, if you squint hard enough. But then there's a near death by poison gas, a transformation of the androgynous villain into beetle form, and suddenly things are back in fine perverse form. To be continued...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    Everyone should read this. It was released the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula and was actually more popular at the time, but has since fallen into obscurity. I think it's even better than Dracula and definitely twice as weird, a genre-spanning supernatural romp that draws from Dickens, Conan Doyle, Victorian romance, and weird scientist fiction and involves cross-dressing, sex cults, and just about everything else. Make sure if you get the Broadview edition to not read the footnotes the firs Everyone should read this. It was released the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula and was actually more popular at the time, but has since fallen into obscurity. I think it's even better than Dracula and definitely twice as weird, a genre-spanning supernatural romp that draws from Dickens, Conan Doyle, Victorian romance, and weird scientist fiction and involves cross-dressing, sex cults, and just about everything else. Make sure if you get the Broadview edition to not read the footnotes the first time 'round, they're chock-full of spoilers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Probably the most interesting thing I can say about this book was that it was published in 1897, the same year as Stoker’s Dracula and was initially a much better seller. Though I think in the end, the good Count has had the last laugh given that his book can be found in nearly every bookstore and library (not to mention the countless film adaptations) whereas The Beetle is one of those books you most likely would need to special order. I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for years. I picked Probably the most interesting thing I can say about this book was that it was published in 1897, the same year as Stoker’s Dracula and was initially a much better seller. Though I think in the end, the good Count has had the last laugh given that his book can be found in nearly every bookstore and library (not to mention the countless film adaptations) whereas The Beetle is one of those books you most likely would need to special order. I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for years. I picked it up for a college course called “Horror and Insanity in Victorian Literature” (and yes, that class was as awesome as it sounds), but due to a snowstorm than knocked out power and made classes canceled for over a week, a book needed to be cut from the syllabus and this was the one chosen. Considering how many books I was reading at the time for classes, any loses were a relief and thus the book went forgotten on my shelf for some time. I’ve finally corrected this, and how did I react? Was it a lost classic worthy of outsell Dracula? Did it deserve to be mostly forgotten by the public? What did I really think of it? Honestly, I have a mixed opinion. The book is broken down into four sections, each with a different narrator telling a piece of the tale. Occasionally these stories overlap and we will see the same scene from a different point of view. Sometimes (much to my annoyance) a character will recap something we saw from a different point of view and go on at great length despite the fact that we already read this. While this aspect can be frustrating, part of me wishes it would have been played with more in depth for a more Rashomon style effect. The problem lies in that the book uses the best section up first. The narration of Robert Holt is a shockingly disturbing read. This section creates a genuinely frightening monster and a scenario that starts off sadly realistic then goes into the genuinely eerie. I read a lot of horror novels and I was startled at how disturbing this section was given the age of the book and looked forward to seeing where it would go next. Well it goes into a tediously boring section about love lost and plotted revenge. This section is so slow and tedious that when the supernatural starts up again, I genuinely sat there for a moment with a sense of wonder at how tonally it had felt like an entirely different book for a good portion of the novel. Seriously, most of this section could be cut as we get recaps of it in future sections and most of this goes nowhere. (view spoiler)[At one point the narrator is inventing a new type of poison, which I was sure would be how the Beetle was defeated, only for this plot point to be left behind and forgotten. (hide spoiler)] The only thing worthy of note in this section is that the narrator could be the villain of another novel, and the fact that this is seemingly ignored in the other sections is just frustrating. The third section kicks the horror back in again and fairly successfully. This section has feels the most tonally like a classic horror novel, and is quite entertaining. While I don’t have the page counts on me, this felt like the fastest paced and also the shortest section, but set up nicely for the final. The fourth section is a mixed bag. Aspects of horror here are quite effective (with some truly disturbing aspects hinted at, but never quite made explicit), that said it is also borderline ridiculous at times. It can be summed up with a lot of traveling and an abrupt ending… and when I say abrupt, I mean ABRUPT. Without spoiling anything I genuinely thought we were still setting up for the ending when the story was concluded (not helped by the fact that the edition I have has several essays printed in the back, thus suggesting a higher page count). There are aspects of the book that I like. Had I not known the date of publication, I would have thought it influenced by H.P. Lovecraft given the “go mad from the revelation” aspect in some parts of the story as well as the unknowable nature of the creatures true from. I suspect that the book probably influence good old H.P. instead, but would have to do more research there. I also love the first section and had it bee a short story, it would rate as one of the underrated in horror literature. Good aspects aside, the pace is incredibly off with some sections moving at the pace of a bullet and others unbearably slow. The horror works in the first section wonderfully, but seemingly becomes another book as it goes on until it abruptly remembers that it is a horror novel and kicks back in with some pretty good scenes. Sadly nothing captures the horror and helplessness of the first section. Overall I sadly cannot say that I like this book. There are some truly wonderful aspects, but overall (other than the first section) it does very little for me. Recommended only for classic horror fans who have already checked out the major works.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    once i realized that the beetle's author, richard marsh (pseudonym for richard bernard heldmann), was the grandfather of one of my favourite writers, robert aickman, i was very excited to read it, and it is clear that a talent for horror was passed down the generations. the novel was published in 1897, just prior to bram stoker's dracula, and i'd say the rather more engaging novel of the two. horror stories quite often depend on the idea that none of us are safe from random chance. any innocent once i realized that the beetle's author, richard marsh (pseudonym for richard bernard heldmann), was the grandfather of one of my favourite writers, robert aickman, i was very excited to read it, and it is clear that a talent for horror was passed down the generations. the novel was published in 1897, just prior to bram stoker's dracula, and i'd say the rather more engaging novel of the two. horror stories quite often depend on the idea that none of us are safe from random chance. any innocent person might stumble into a nightmare, enter into the wrong place at the wrong time, and have their life destroyed. the beetle relies on this device: in its opening section, robert holt, a clerk who has lost his job and cannot find another, becoming a tramp, seeking and being shut from the last place of refuge he has the energy to strike for, a workhouse in hammersmith. he wanders up the streets, in the pouring rain, starved and exhausted, and then sees a opened window in what appears to him to be a derelict house. he climbs through the window, and finds his doom there: a horrifying skittering heard brings a creature to him that he cannot resist, and a strange person, that he cannot tell is man or woman, who kisses him with swollen, blubbery lips that revolt him, that he wishes he could turn from, but finds he cannot resist. simply by climbing in a window, he has lost the only thing he had left to him: his free will. he is commanded to break into the house of paul lessingham, a up-and-coming politician, who has a dark past that he thought he had escaped, a nightmare that he too, stumbled into, many years ago. the book is told in four parts, by holt, sydney atherton a romantic rival of lessington's, marjorie linton, lessington's betrothed, and finally a detective lessington engages, augustus champnell. i enjoyed the first three sections much more than the last: i found the chasing of trains a little rushed and anticlimactic, but also appreciate that chance turns on you, it takes no sides, and might spin its wheel again. i liked marjorie, but had rather hoped that dora grayling had played a larger part but they are both strong female characters, and the book seems rather open on many questions around sex and gender. of course, we speak of women of fine white english stock -- colonial attitudes as regards race are very prevalent here. a good creepy summer read, especially throughout sydney atherton's section -- the beetle is not the only one to fear in the book. 3.5 stars

  13. 4 out of 5

    Celia

    As a work of literature: very bad. As a window into late Victorian cultural anxieties: fascinating. "If there's one thing I know," said Richard Marsh to himself one day, "it is that the top three scariest things in this world are sexy women, gay men, and, of course, people of colour. If I write a book whose antagonist is all three of these things and is also sometimes a GIANT BUG then that's just gonna be the scariest goddamn book anybody ever wrote." Is the most frightening scene in this story t As a work of literature: very bad. As a window into late Victorian cultural anxieties: fascinating. "If there's one thing I know," said Richard Marsh to himself one day, "it is that the top three scariest things in this world are sexy women, gay men, and, of course, people of colour. If I write a book whose antagonist is all three of these things and is also sometimes a GIANT BUG then that's just gonna be the scariest goddamn book anybody ever wrote." Is the most frightening scene in this story the one where the titular bad guy transforms into a big bug and crawls over the immobilized body of the narrator in the dark? Is it when he takes the form of a beautiful woman in order to make a young Englishman his sex slave? Or is it when he actually dares to walk around London looking kind of foreign and wearing a burnous??? Brrrrrrrr. This was not a particularly fun book to read, but it would be a very fun book to write a paper about. If anybody's looking for a case study on the effect of colonialism and social change on gothic literature of the late Victorian era, check this bad boy out.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Book Wyrm

    I feel like I should hate myself for loving this grotesque penny dreadful so much, with its ludicrous racism and lurching tonal shifts, but I couldn't put the damn thing down. Its first part, narrated by the unfortunate Holt, is worth more than five stars, it's an extremely effective and harrowing horror. The second part should have had me flinging the book away in disgust as we're transported to the piddling, society nonsense narration of Atherton, a proto-nice guy, 'I am very smart' cad and occ I feel like I should hate myself for loving this grotesque penny dreadful so much, with its ludicrous racism and lurching tonal shifts, but I couldn't put the damn thing down. Its first part, narrated by the unfortunate Holt, is worth more than five stars, it's an extremely effective and harrowing horror. The second part should have had me flinging the book away in disgust as we're transported to the piddling, society nonsense narration of Atherton, a proto-nice guy, 'I am very smart' cad and occassional cat murderer, but he was such a snarky and incredibly funny bastard that I forgave everything. Marsh's (Human) female characters feel especially great for the time period, in that they take exactly zero shit from our bumbling male characters and drip caustic wit, and any 'silly womanly' mistakes they make are routinely matched by the equally dumb actions of their male counterparts. Also, (view spoiler)[Marsh ultimately doesn't allow our plucky male heroes to be the saviour of our damsel in distress. (hide spoiler)] The story itself felt dark and urgent, with effective and unsettling imagery likely to leave an uncomfortable clammy feeling on the skin, though it is slightly marred and disjointed by some long monologues and sudden shifts in tone or switching of narrator. The Orientalism and the depictions of the 'lower class riffraff' can be extremely cringe worthy, (especially when I've no idea if I'm supposed to be taking salt with it), so much so that saying 'oh, it was a different time' feels like a very lacking excuse. The ending is also a bit unsatisfying, as if Marsh declared 'bored now!' and scrambled out a swift finale so he could go have tiffin (or forge cheques, apparently). Nonetheless, it's gripping, vividly written, surprisingly funny and featuring more eroticism, gender bending and nudity than I would have expected from a popular English novel of this era, along with a healthy dose of fin-de-siecle angst. If you love the Gothic or sarcastic British humour then this book's an absolute necessity.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kay

          ""A face looked into mine, and, in front of me, were those dreadful eyes. Then, whether I was dead or living, I said to myself that this could be nothing human, -nothing fashioned in God's image could wear such a shape as that. Fingers were pressed into my cheeks, they were thrust into my mouth, they touched my staring eyes, shut my eyelids, then opened them again, and-horror of horrors!-the blubber lips were pressed to mine-the soul of something evil entered into me in the guise of a kiss       ""A face looked into mine, and, in front of me, were those dreadful eyes. Then, whether I was dead or living, I said to myself that this could be nothing human, -nothing fashioned in God's image could wear such a shape as that. Fingers were pressed into my cheeks, they were thrust into my mouth, they touched my staring eyes, shut my eyelids, then opened them again, and-horror of horrors!-the blubber lips were pressed to mine-the soul of something evil entered into me in the guise of a kiss." Published in 1897, the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Beetle is a classic Victorian weird/sensation novel, written in wonderfully ripe, overwrought prose, and featuring (of course!) a sinister oriental figure with the power to transform himself. This fiend persecutes and hypnotically asserts control over an upstanding British man, the hero of the novel. In many ways, this sort of novel foreshadowed Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu novels, but it also fed into the late 19th-century fascination with all things Egyptian. Later this sort of tale would be the grist for 20th century mummy films and Boris Karloff's mesmerizing stare, but unfortunately The Beetle never seems to have made the leap into popular modern culture the way that Dracula did. A pity, as this is an equally engrossing supernatural tale.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    This classic in Gothic literature wasn't bad, I really enjoyed its mystery and elements of terror. The British setting was also described very vividly.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    What a weird, fun book this is! It's a bit of a combination of horror, mystery, and Victorian Sensation novel. Here's what Wikipedia says about it: "The Beetle (or The Beetle: A Mystery) is an 1897 horror novel by the British writer Richard Marsh, in which a polymorphous Ancient Egyptian entity seeks revenge on a British Member of Parliament. It initially out-sold Bram Stoker's similar horror story Dracula, which appeared the same year." It's told in four parts, each part narrated by a different c What a weird, fun book this is! It's a bit of a combination of horror, mystery, and Victorian Sensation novel. Here's what Wikipedia says about it: "The Beetle (or The Beetle: A Mystery) is an 1897 horror novel by the British writer Richard Marsh, in which a polymorphous Ancient Egyptian entity seeks revenge on a British Member of Parliament. It initially out-sold Bram Stoker's similar horror story Dracula, which appeared the same year." It's told in four parts, each part narrated by a different character. Some passages are over-the-top creepy, especially if you're creeped out by giant bugs. Other parts have romance and even some humor. It's fast-paced and while it's certainly not serious Literature, I couldn't stop reading it. A creepily fun read, if you 're in the right mood.

  18. 5 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    A group of Englishmen save a white woman from a cult of intersex Egyptians. Ugh, this was the most unpleasant, bigoted piece of trash it has been my displeasure to read for some time. AND THAT ENDING. I started out with high hopes. The first quarter is appropriately mysyerious. But the mystery is revealed to be dull, the characters dull, everything set up with the plot dropped like a deflated baloon, the ending a deus ex machina, via literal train wreck. Written to play off people's cheapest fea A group of Englishmen save a white woman from a cult of intersex Egyptians. Ugh, this was the most unpleasant, bigoted piece of trash it has been my displeasure to read for some time. AND THAT ENDING. I started out with high hopes. The first quarter is appropriately mysyerious. But the mystery is revealed to be dull, the characters dull, everything set up with the plot dropped like a deflated baloon, the ending a deus ex machina, via literal train wreck. Written to play off people's cheapest fears, rah rah England, and leave behind a trail of disappointment, apparently. THERE IS A MAD SCIENTIST AND THEY DON'T USE HIS MAD SCIENCE EXCEPT TO KILL A CAT, AND THAT WASN'T EVEN AT THE END OF THE BOOK. Reread Dracula instead.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Char

    First published in 1897, The Beetle is a strange little mystery adventure story. I mistakenly went into it thinking it was a horror or dark fiction tale. And while I guess it could be considered horror, only the very first portion was the least bit scary. A blend of Isis worship, mystery, Keystone Cop chases, hypnosis, politics, humor and romance, it's difficult to categorize The Beetle. It is well written-it's just all over the place. Even though it wasn't horror, I did enjoy this book-uneven t First published in 1897, The Beetle is a strange little mystery adventure story. I mistakenly went into it thinking it was a horror or dark fiction tale. And while I guess it could be considered horror, only the very first portion was the least bit scary. A blend of Isis worship, mystery, Keystone Cop chases, hypnosis, politics, humor and romance, it's difficult to categorize The Beetle. It is well written-it's just all over the place. Even though it wasn't horror, I did enjoy this book-uneven though it was, but I only recommend it to those that think this description sounds interesting. I don't regret reading it, but in all honesty? I'm glad that it's over.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna Kļaviņa

    DNF The first part was really good but the second part was slow and boring. The story might get more absorbing and I'm somehow reluctantly DNF-ing this book but chapter 16 was the last straw.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Very entertaining and exciting! Loved the different narrators...the light tone of the book kinda made up for the really creepy and disturbing goings-on...Also--THERE'S A REASON I HATE BUGS!!!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    Putting this one aside, for now. I have no time to read it!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Neale

    Richard Marsh is an intriguing case – a convicted fraudster, son of a convicted fraudster, who spent time in prison then reinvented himself as a successful popular writer, outselling Bram Stoker’s Dracula with his orientalist shocker The Beetle. What is more, he was grandfather to the less successful but very great writer of ‘strange stories’, Robert Aickman. Marsh does not have a high reputation amongst literary critics, but there is this to be said for him – he wrote great opening chapters to h Richard Marsh is an intriguing case – a convicted fraudster, son of a convicted fraudster, who spent time in prison then reinvented himself as a successful popular writer, outselling Bram Stoker’s Dracula with his orientalist shocker The Beetle. What is more, he was grandfather to the less successful but very great writer of ‘strange stories’, Robert Aickman. Marsh does not have a high reputation amongst literary critics, but there is this to be said for him – he wrote great opening chapters to his novels. His most famous work, The Beetle, has an incredibly powerful opening chapter, in which an educated man, down on his luck, is refused entry to a doss-house and breaks into an abandoned building for shelter, only to meet the eponymous monster in an ineffably creepy scene. If Marsh had continued in this vein, rather than allowing the book to dissolve into an entertaining but preposterous Sax-Rohmer-esque fantasy, this would have been one of the great fin-de-siecle horror novels. I have looked into other novels by Marsh, and they all start equally well. His style is unpretentious but perfectly tuned. His dialogue is not always convincing, but it is of its time. His racial politics is most definitely of its time... Marsh’s openings often make me think of George Gissing, as he presents the plight of late Victorian characters who have fallen through the social net and are confronted by the awfulness and precariousness of life and the blank horror of poverty. This predicament seems to mean a lot to him. He displays a wide if not deep understanding of human nature which may well go along with his earlier proclivities for fraud. His books rarely continue as well and as bleakly as they open – if they did he would undoubtedly have alienated his popular readership – but they are well worth opening. His first chapters more than hint at the great achievement of his grandson...

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Hold

    It is hard to know what to make of this novel. It is good and creepy, at times displaying bits of humor, but the major characters are vain and unlikable. The sole sympathetic person is Holt, who thru no fault of his own, falls victim to the Beetle and suffers unjustly. Not that anyone really cares. The other characters are Lessington, a smug politician who talks in circles & never says anything; Atherton, self-pitying, jealous, & callous, who invents weapons for chemical warfare, thought It is hard to know what to make of this novel. It is good and creepy, at times displaying bits of humor, but the major characters are vain and unlikable. The sole sympathetic person is Holt, who thru no fault of his own, falls victim to the Beetle and suffers unjustly. Not that anyone really cares. The other characters are Lessington, a smug politician who talks in circles & never says anything; Atherton, self-pitying, jealous, & callous, who invents weapons for chemical warfare, thoughtlessly kills a cat to demonstrate his invention to a friend, & dreams of testing his weapon in South America where he can kill thousands of animals at once; Marjorie, a conceited nitwit supposedly a suffragette but really just a loud mouth without a brain to match. I can't think of a single reason for liking her. The final character, Champnell, is interesting as a Sherlock Holmes knockoff, but if you've read one knockoff you've read them all. The book is saved by its villain who is ambiguous, mysterious, & effective. The story has power despite its characters & could make an interesting BBC production provided they eschew special effects and rely on atmosphere.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Grace Harwood

    I loved this Victorian mystery story from virtually the same time of publication as Stoker's Dracula. In fact, The Beetle apparently outsold Dracula initially, but Stoker's work won in the overall popularity contest and The Beetle fell largely from sight. I had never heard of Marsh's work before but apparently he was a prolific author and there are lots and lots of free kindle works of his out there - some of which I have downloaded and shall be reading. This book tells the story of a mysterious I loved this Victorian mystery story from virtually the same time of publication as Stoker's Dracula. In fact, The Beetle apparently outsold Dracula initially, but Stoker's work won in the overall popularity contest and The Beetle fell largely from sight. I had never heard of Marsh's work before but apparently he was a prolific author and there are lots and lots of free kindle works of his out there - some of which I have downloaded and shall be reading. This book tells the story of a mysterious man/woman/being who is living in a down at heel rented villa in London and has the ability to transform himself into a beetle. In fact, he is the magical scarab beetle of Egypt and emblematic of the worshipers of Isis. The story then goes on to be told through four different points of view as to how he/she/it wreaks havoc across London including causing a train wreck. It's all terribly exciting and crosses the classes as well as the various neighbourhoods of London. I particularly liked the first book's narrator, the down on his luck clerk, Robert Holt. The second book is narrated by Sydney Atherton - definitely upper class and some kind of early chemical weapons manufacturer - when he tested his "inventions" on a neighbourhood cat, I fell out with him and started wanting the Beetle to win! Marjorie Lindon who narrates the third book is a great example of a modern Victorian woman and the final narrator, a private detective, will remind readers of Sherlock Holmes (and, incidentally also reminded me of Kazuo Ishiguro's lead character in "When we were Orphans"). This is a great example of fin de siecle literature with thoroughly modern "new women" featuring, lots of emphasis on science as well as the class divisions which were so painfully apparent during those times. It also has that Victorian obsession with all things Egyptian to commend it. A great example of Victorian literature and FREE on Kindle. Not to be missed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I read "The Beetle," by Richard Marsh as part of a literature theory class which sought to apply the theories we learned to different sections of the novel. Because I read the novel with this frame of mind, I feel as though I read into the character's actions and the diction much more than I typically would. The reason I enjoyed this book was because it is one the first times vampires are explored in literature (excluding Dracula). The novel, although not written from a modern perspective, actua I read "The Beetle," by Richard Marsh as part of a literature theory class which sought to apply the theories we learned to different sections of the novel. Because I read the novel with this frame of mind, I feel as though I read into the character's actions and the diction much more than I typically would. The reason I enjoyed this book was because it is one the first times vampires are explored in literature (excluding Dracula). The novel, although not written from a modern perspective, actually has some great supernatural elements. This is one of the most compelling lines of the novel, "I saw him take a different shape before my eyes. His loose draperies fell about him... and there issued out of them a monstrous creature of the beetle tribe." There is a constant sense of dread in the writing. This was my favorite element. In my own writing, I find it difficult to build suspense. I feel as though the reader can always see what's coming. Marsh builds the suspense well and introduces the characters gradually throughout the chapters. I think this was very successful for the supernatural theme of the writing. For anyone who wants to venture into the supernatural genre, "The Beetle" is a must read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fishface

    A great read -- one of the fundamental novels if you are looking into Gothic horror. Great combination of Victorian stuffiness and sheer weirdness, with a great deal of rushing about in Hansom cabs and knocking on the doors of deserted houses. The version I found to read was supposedly "edited" by Julian Wolfreys, but it is really just annotated and explained to a fare-thee-well, even including footnotes to tell readers what "blimey" means -- the guy must think we're all stupid. At the same time A great read -- one of the fundamental novels if you are looking into Gothic horror. Great combination of Victorian stuffiness and sheer weirdness, with a great deal of rushing about in Hansom cabs and knocking on the doors of deserted houses. The version I found to read was supposedly "edited" by Julian Wolfreys, but it is really just annotated and explained to a fare-thee-well, even including footnotes to tell readers what "blimey" means -- the guy must think we're all stupid. At the same time, he skips the definitions of far-less-well-known words, like "Mussulmanic," and while he takes the time to tell you who the original Doubting Thomas was, he lets one male character describe another as "well-hung" without stopping to mention that the phrase did not have anything to do with genitalia in the 1870s. At another juncture, a female character says that this event was 'as revivifying to her as a cold douche,' without mentioning that in the 1870s that meant a shower, not a Massengill treatment.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester

    Some lovely flesh-crawling stuff in here. I was looking for "Curios", but came across this on the way. Apparently "The Beetle" was more popular than "Dracula" back in the day. I can see why. The first few chapters were fabulous, hooked me good and fast, and the story kept on from there - the different narrators bringing various points of view and keeping the story fresh. It was fun - eerie fun! (Loved the beetle carpet.)I had a horror of beetles when I was a kid, so I *GOT* this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Robert Collins

    I found this in Second Hand shop it is classic Horror but unlike Dracula or Frankenstein this not well known .Which a great shame because it's every bit as good & certainly better than Phantom of The Opera. One not to be missed if can find it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Doreen Petersen

    A weird, twisted but really interesting mystery. I really liked it.

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