If I was allowed to save just one book from a fire in my apartment, it would be my annotated HP Lovecraft collection. Nothing enthrals me quite like a story about a terrifying monster in some weird and remote location. So when I heard about SA Sidor’s The Beast of Nightfall Lodge, I immediately requested an advanced reader copy, as it’s description promised me exactly that;
When Egyptologist Rom Hardy receives a strange letter from his old friend, the bounty-hunting sniper Rex McTroy, he finds himself drawn into a chilling mystery. In the mountains of New Mexico, a bloodthirsty creature is on the loose, leaving a trail of bodies in its wake.
The eeriness and suspense that I hoped for was intense from the moment the story arrives in New Mexico. Sidor’s descriptions of a desperate and hopeless New Mexican frontier town, coupled with the intense paranoia and worry that have a near constant hold on the protagonist, stoked my own sense of apprehension and concern about what was in store. Furthermore, as the plot develops and Rom’s sanity becomes more questionable with each chapter, it becomes harder to have faith in what you believe is actually happening up on the mountain. Rom himself encapsulates this best;
That is what is so insidious about this whole affair. We stop trusting each other. Everyone hides a monster inside. This is what we come to believe. We are the monsters. It eats away at us.
The combination of supernatural and cryptozoology elements worked well. In hindsight, the book has plenty of clues (and red herrings) as to the nature of the beast. However, with there being so much uncertainty about what is real and what is actually happening, these clues get lost in the fog and snowstorms that subjugate everything. Indeed, it is not knowing what it is that is being hunted (or, rather, what is doing the hunting) that brilliantly cultivates fear and uneasiness throughout. Ultimately, I found the truth behind the monster to be quite satisfying.
I really enjoyed the book, but there were a couple of elements of the book that irked me to varying degrees. The story is actually recounted by Rom himself, some 30 years after the fact. I thought that it was a strange decision and even once it became clear why Sidor had done this, I still found that it rubbed me the wrong way. The ‘revivication’ arc of the story also didn’t work for me. Even in a book featuring demons, séances, and people transforming into animals, a severed head covered in green, life-giving ooze felt ridiculous. Even the story behind its origin failed.
Despite these issues, The Beast of Nightfall Lodge was great fun to read. For those of you who enjoy mystery, fear, and monsters, grab a copy and head off into the wilderness. You’ll have a great time.
Thanks to the publisher, Angry Robot, for an advanced reader copy