Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Horror on the Loch - David Whitelaw
The initial problem seems like something out of a John Dickson Carr novel. In the opening of the book a burial vault under observation is broken into and a body is stolen but no one was seen leaving with the corpse. I had great hopes for a thriller of a detective novel. The writing has wonderful Gothic atmosphere in the descriptive passages of the Scottish landscape and the cast of quirky minor characters. There is much hinting at supernatural interference. Among the possibilities discussed are a local legend of some beast that haunts the moors, a vampire when the carcass of a gigantic bat is found near the burial vault, and later when the sexton is found with his throat ripped open. All of this, however, is dismissed when the real reason for the bizarre events is discovered halfway through the book.
A local physician has been conducting genetic experiments (Island of Dr. Moreau redux) and one of the specimens from his collection of freakish animals escaped and killed the sexton. The hero discovers the stolen corpse in the lab and learns the physician was starting human experiments. His Malay servant was his earliest guinea pig in the first of the human experiments. He now has larger than normal hands and a freakishly out of proportion upper torso and odd facial features. The physician is killed in a fight with the protagonist who escapes with the doctor's niece from the gloomy castle and dungeon-like lab.
The rest of the book is spent in looking for a stolen treasure (a second reason for the burial vault break-in) and locating a black sheep relative of the stolen corpse who was responsible for hiring a crook to break into the vault. No supernatural content at all. More science fiction horror than anything else. It might be worth reading some of his other books to see if he was a Carr wanna-be.