For years, my colleague and overseas pal, David Hambling, has been trying to encourage me to write a Lovecraftian story that has at least some part of the setting in the area that I’m living in. I’ve been hesitant, but after reading Book of the Dead by Greig Beck, I’ve learned that setting doesn’t matter, it’s the story that drives a novel.
From the sinkholes in Cedar Rapids to militant zones in the Middle East, Australian Greig Beck knows how to write adventure and horror.
While the story was toted as Indiana Jones meets H.P. Lovecraft, I would argue that the character of Matt Kearns was definitely more of a Robert Langdon than Indy. He’s a linguist and his strengths are more in the realm of intelligence than physical. Throughout the story, Matt is faced with militant forces, deranged cultists, an insanity-inducing book, shoggoth, and Old Gods. Each of these adversities is met with his cunning wit and mind. Matt Kearns is clever in a way that Indiana Jones would envy.
That’s alright, though.
The best part of this novel was the ramping up and building of the Cthulhu Mythos throughout the story. Sinkholes are old news. While rare, they happen, but then things begin happening to people near or around the sinkholes. They begin to disappear or experience violent episodes. Black goo is all over the place and there are no answers for where the goo is coming from or what is causing the sinkholes.
Matt Kearns, linguist and generally clever dude, is brought in to help explain a mysterious symbol in the first sinkhole. Then the symbol starts popping up everywhere. When the only lead for what the symbol means comes from a mysterious message from a scholar in the Middle East, Kearns joins up with the military to hunt down the Book of the Dead, the Dreaded Necronomicon.
The story’s ability to ramp up, from the sinkholes to the great writing as Greig introduces new plot twists, new characters, and new elements of the Cthulhu Mythos, creates a ticking clock sense of dread that makes this one of the best horror/adventure stories that I’ve ever read.
From my understanding, there is a series of Matt Kearns and Alex Hunter books by Greig Beck, and I haven’t read any of them to date, but this book is so uniquely spectacular that it makes a wonderful stand alone novel. I followed along without missing a beat, and only once (the introduction of Mossad agent Captain Adira Senesh, and her recognition of Matt Kearns) did I feel as though I had just stumbled upon a much larger story. After that small bump, the story was entirely self-contained.
On top of his explanation of the Mythos, Greig manages to also build upon it, as we finally get to learn some of the words in the “Mad Arab’s” book. How do you stop an ancient God from consuming the Earth? Greig goes about tackling that question and doesn’t make it seem like a last-second save.
Greig Beck did what many people in our line of work hope to do. He wrote a Lovecraftian tale beautifully disguised as an adventure novel that came across as 100% original. Well done.