Sunday, October 16, 2016
THE BEAST UNDER THE WIZARD'S BRIDGE by Brad Strickland
In the first novel of the Barnavelt series, mention is made of an enchanted bridge that was supposedly built by a local wizard to prevent an ancestor's ghost from coming for him. This book uses that and builds on it.
The old Wilder Creek Bridge is being torn down, and to be replaced by a new modern bridge. Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann are concerned, but won't say why. Lewis and Rose Rita begin to suspect that they're hiding something major, and begin looking into things themselves. They find out a meteor fell to earth years ago, bringing with it something unholy...
Yes, this is basically a reworking of Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" for young readers, but it works well. The titular beast isn't a colour, but a classic Cthulhoid semi-shoggoth, and scenes of Lewis and Rose Rita visiting a blasted farmstead are some of the more striking horror images that have ever featured in any of the Bellairs/Strickland canon. They actually worked on me a little, rousing memories of abandoned farms and withered fields around my childhood home.
It also has an appearance by inept witch Mrs. Jaegar, always welcome.
One of the more significant things about the Edward Gorey cover art is that it's probably the only time that Gorey illustrated Cthulhu. (The back cover is a scene from the novel where one of Uncle Jonathan's illusion shows is hijacked by other forces, and they witness the rising of a creature, presumably Cthulhu. It's memorable.)
This is a particularly recommended part of the series, because it tackles Lovecraft so effectively for younger readers.