First published back in 1985, Richard Laymon’s supernatural stalker novel ‘Beware!’ was released at one of the high points (productively speaking) in this horror author’s long and impressive writing career.
Lacey Allen is a young reporter for the local newspaper - the ‘Oasis Tribune’ in the small town of Oasis. Allen is one of the first on the scene after a number of strange supernatural happenings take place at the local supermarket owned by Elsie Hoffman.
When the strange midnight vandalism continues, Elsie loans a friend’s German Shepherd to keep watch over the premises at night. The next morning the dog is found slaughtered on the shop floor. The dog’s owner, Red Peterson, seeking revenge returns to the Hoffman Market the following night with his shotgun in the hope of catching the intruder. However, close to the shop’s closing time, Lacey calls in at the store to find both Red Peterson and Elsie Hoffman murdered and horrifically mutilated.
When Lacey Allen turns to flee, she is knocked unconscious and then raped by an unseen assailant. Lacey awakens a while later, and after alerting the authorities to the murders, returns to her home. Only she is not alone. Without knowing, she has also taken home the psychotic serial killer who had only just raped her that very night. This man has a unique ability to get away with such horrifically violent crimes. This is because he is invisible to the human eye.
Elsewhere the private detective, Matt Dukane, is acting out a rescue mission for a young girl who has been brain-washed by a powerful and deadly cult. A cult which takes part in blood rituals, human sacrifices and mass orgies.
When Lacey Allen escapes from her invisible tormentor’s grasp, she flees to the nearby city of Tucson where she meets the reasonably successful fiction writer Scott Bradley. When the invisible killer catches up with Lacey, Bradley calls up his old friend Matt Dukane to help them out. But the roots of the invisible killer’s unique ability run all the way to Laveda – the leader of the murderous cult Dukane had just narrowly escaped from.
What is the real identity of this invisible killer and why is he going to such lengths to track drown Lacey Allen? And how does it all connect to this powerful cult who it appears will stop at nothing to get their hands on the invisible killer. All these answers are waiting to be brought to light by one person...if only he could be seen.
Laymon starts off the novel jumping straight into the mysterious occurrences at the Hoffman Market that reveal a much more threatening undertone. The storyline quickly jumps to Dukane’s action packed rescue mission, throwing the reader back and forth from one distinct storyline to another. As the novel progresses, so the foggy air of confusion begins to clear. This is when Laymon decides to crank up the pace of the novel with numerous outbursts of graphically depicted sexual assaults and blood-drenched mutilation - somewhat of a staple diet for a Laymon novel.
The further down the path the reader is led into this already wildly outlandish tale, the more ludicrous and utterly over-the-top it becomes. But Laymon doesn’t let the barefaced ridiculous nature of the plot get in the way of the thrills and violence of the tale. It’s an unplug the brain story whereby you simply sit back and enjoy the madness of this cut-throat action-packed ride.
Laymon valiantly attempts to reinvent the notion of an invisible man with his own disturbing take on the classic sci-fi idea. However, no amount of monstrous rape and savage murder escapes the all too clichéd and comically camp premise lurking behind the tale.
The character of Matt Dukane is clichéd to the hilt, coming off as another Sean Doyle (‘Renegades’ (1991) ‘White Ghost’ (1994) etc) style of gritty hero. Dukane does however inject an enjoyable level of cheesy heroic violence to the storyline that is desperately needed to escape from the almost laughable re-awakening of the invisible man premise.
When the cult return once more to the storyline, this time in a desperate attempt to capture the invisible man themselves, the pace is once again turned up another notch. Now Laymon goes all out with page after page of non-stop action, mixed with moments of nail biting tension.
The storyline thunders towards an all-out western style finale, where Laymon builds up a veritable feast of suspense filled final few chapters. Here, with everything set to conclude the story in a dramatic way, Laymon seems to stumble somewhat, throwing down an altogether weak and badly thought out ending. The final few pages seem puzzling and slightly incoherent, until the very last page or two, where Laymon puts down the final twist that ties together those painfully scattered concluding pages.
Although the novel is crammed full of enough over-the-top action and blood spill to keep most pulp horror enthusiasts happy, sadly the storyline as a whole comes across as too disjointed and weak. The invisible man angle was a brave premise to take on board for a novel of this adult style of writing, but alas, Laymon’s invisible man doesn’t manage to really produce the scare factor he needed for the tale to really work.
This is certainly one of the weaker of Laymon’s novels, although it does include some triumphantly nasty moments from Laymon’s disturbingly inspired mind.
The novel runs for a total of 279 pages.
© DLS Reviews