First published back in 1978, British author Graham Masterton’s novel ‘The Sphinx’ was one of the earliest releases from the writer’s lengthy and prolific career within the horror fiction genre.

More recently the book has been re-released by MHB Press in August of 2010 in three different limited edition formats:

Collector's Edition (300 signed and numbered copies) - The book is bound in Colorado Book Cloth with a sewn book block, head/tail bands and a bound-in ribbon book mark. The pages themselves are 115 gsm matt coated paper which gives the book that added luxurious weight.

Deluxe Edition (150 signed and numbered copies) - The book is handmade, quarter bound in grey goat skin leather with handmade paper covered boards, including additional colour artwork and issued in a special handmade cloth covered slipcase.

Lettered Edition (26 signed and lettered A-Z copies) - This ultra-luxurious edition is handmade, fully bound in grey goat skin leather with gilt edges and handmade marbled endpapers, including additional colour artwork and comes in an extra indulgent handmade traycase.

The MHB Press re-release includes new cover artwork by Ben Baldwin (collector edition) and a small number of black & white illustrations, all by illustrator Lara Addams.

DLS Synopsis:
Gene Keiller is a handsome young politician, at thirty-two years of age he is already making the right waves within the dog-eat-dog world of politics.  Single, and with plenty of charisma, Keiller knows damn well that he can have almost any woman he puts his mind to.  And so, when he notices nineteen-year-old Lorie Semple, daughter of the recently deceased French diplomat Jean Semple, at a high-brow politician
s party, Keiller decides to try his luck with the beautiful young lady.

However, Semple proves to be a very strange and mysterious young lady.  Looks-wise, the young lady could have absolutely anyone she chooses to.  Yet she remains a virgin, with no history of lovers or dating whatsoever.  And when Keiller tries his best to secure a date from the quietly spoken beauty, he finds he is seemingly up against a brick small.  But persistence is ingrained in the man’s very nature.  And so as the allure of the Semple girl turns to near obsession for Keiller, he takes bolder steps to try to make whatever headway he can with the girl.  Even if that means breaking into the uber-secure mansion where she lives with her mother and their mute chauffeur - Mathieu.

But the stealthy break-in fails dramatically when Keiller is mauled by a vicious animal within the grounds of the Semple mansion.  Awakening later within the their plush home, Keiller finds himself being nursed back to health by Lorie’s mother who has taken it upon herself to persuade her daughter to accept Gene’s offers of a date.  After Lorie hinted that she could not court Keiller due to a terrible secret which lies behind her family and her heritage, Keiller is baffled by this sudden turn of events, but nonetheless is at the same time utterly overjoyed with the sudden turnaround.

The relationship between Lorie and Gene soon blossoms.  However, the secret that is always lurking behind Lorie’s heritage, stopping her from allowing any future for the young couple’s relationship, is constantly at Keiller’s heels.  And so, after seeking advice from a psychiatrist friend, Keiller decides to face Semple’s fear head-on, and after being made to promise not to ever ask this one particular question, he does it anyway, and proposes to Lorie Semple.

But the family secret that nineteen-year-old Lorie has tried so very hard to protect Keiller from discovering, is now becoming unavoidable.  The family’s roots with the strange Egyptian tribe known as the Ubasti is now coming to light.  And with the shocking revelations, so comes a barrage of horrendous decisions for the newlywed couple.  And behind it all, a terrible danger to Lorie Semple’s new husband…

DLS Review:
The first thing that hits you when reading Masterton’s novel ‘The Sphinx’ is how incredibly easy the novel is to read.  Although the tale doesn’t really embark on any particularly elaborate or in any way really involving plot, it does however grip and enthral the reader with the simple entrainment of the author’s writing.  Very much like with a Laymon novel, half the pleasure of the story is with the sheer wordsmanship on show – captivating and entrancing the reader with the sheer telling of the tale.  And this is very much the case once again here.

The plot is a straight-forward, pretty darn unpredictable, run-of-the-mill mystery horror, with a good deal of added predominance put towards the characters than the actual plot or overall depth to the tale.  This is fine, and actually works remarkably well.

However, where the tale does still fall down quite considerably, is in its pace, impact and strength of plot.  Characterisation and great storytelling can’t completely rescue an otherwise shallow and far too singular storyline.  Yes, of course it helps, but even with these strengths very much in play; sadly throughout the novel the reader is still left feeling like they are being merely just pulled along by an inevitable and a far too blatant ending that has too much overbearing dominance on absolutely everything that has preceded it.

That said, the finale is still dramatic and pretty intense with the boundaries that Masterton is suddenly willing to cross.  The novel wraps itself up to a certain degree with a solid conclusion, but leaves a fair proportion of the general storyline somewhat still afloat.  The simplistic and ‘easy option’ taken of tying up the final threads of the tale, does still leave the reader feeling a little cheated and ultimately unsatisfied.

All in all the novel is still predominantly a very enjoyable and engaging read, mostly due to the rich and colourful characterisation and the instantly captivating writing ability of Masterton.  Although the novel does have its short comings, it does still hold a certain 70’s horror charm, which coupled with the surprisingly dubious finale, makes for a generally enjoyable read.

The tale runs for a total of 167 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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