Release Date: November 17th, 2015
Synopsis: Ben McKelvie believes he’s moving up in the world when he and his fiancee buy a house in the cushy Washington D.C. suburb of Barcroft. Instead he’s moving down–way down– thanks to Madeleine Roux, the crazy neighbor whose vermin-infested property is a permanent eyesore and looming hazard to public health.
First, Ben’s fiancee leaves him; then his dog dies, apparently killed by a predator drawn into Barcroft by Madeleine’s noxious menagerie. But the worst is yet to come for Ben, for he’s not dealing with any ordinary wild animal. This killer is something much, Much worse. Something that couldn’t possibly exist–in this world.
Now, as a devilish creature stalks the locals, Ben resolves to take action. With some grudging assistance from a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the crackpot theories of a self-styled cryptozoologist, he discovers the sinister truth behind the attacks, but knowing the Beast of Barcroft and stopping it are two different animals.
Have you ever started a book with preconceived notions, only to finish being completely surprised? The Beast of Barcroft wound up going off in a completely different direction than what I expected, but it actually wound up being quite good.
So, first I thought the beast was going to be a spin on the traditional werewolf myth. Then, I thought it was going to be an even cooler take on the legend of skinwalkers. Well, I wound up being a little closer to that guess, but the big reveal wound up being even more iimaginative and terrifying than that.
Ben is a tough character to care about st first. At the onset of the novel he’s been having a tough time getting over his father’s death. He’s dealing with his grief by giving into anger and taking his emotions out on his fiancee and eventually she leaves him. He’s now alone except for his faithful dog Bucky who unfortunately gets killed by some mysterious predator. Ben is determined to get to the bottom of things and in an odd way, it’s this quest that winds up saving him from the quagmire of depression and rage he’s been drowning in.
Lindsay is the zoologist who joins Ben in his hunt for the elusive creature who is now also killing people. She’s naive, but smart and funny. She and Ben make a great team and I’m hoping that Bill Schweigart writes another book featuring them. There’s no real romance which I think was a wise decision on the author’s part because it would have been completely superfluous and ultimately would have taken away from the story.
What I loved most of all about this story is that it’s based on actual events that happened in Barcroft during 1974. For several weeks something terrorised residents there and was responsible for killing at least 23 pets near the Four Mile Run trail. One area newspaper wrote:
“What is it that screams so, down there in the dark hollow of Four Mile Run?What is it that howls and kills and goes crash in the Arlington night; that tears the eyes from cats; that strips the hides from rabbits; that raises the hackles on the backs of terrified dogs and cats?”
With a story like that, who needs fiction? Ultimately the culprit was found to be a civet which looks like this:
With The Beast of Barcroft, Bill Schweigart has taken a real life mystery and successfully blended it with supernatural themes. It’s a quick and enjoyable book worthy of standing alongside those of Stephen King and Bentley Little.