Take one mysterious animal carcass washed up on shore, add a nearby government facility studying animal diseases, and then make the carcass just as mysteriously disappear, and what you've got there, my friends, is an urban legend with the makings of a conspiracy theorist's wet dream.
Yes, there really is (or was) a 'monster' that washed up on the shores of Montauk, New York in July of 2008. Thanks to a tip from the local media to Gawker.com, the story went viral, with the simplest explanation - that it was a decomposed raccoon - dismissed in favor any number of conspiracy theories. That's where Hunter Shea comes in, taking the most outlandish of those theories and running with it, straight into b-grade monster horror territory.
Montauk Monster starts with a drunk couple who head down to the beach for some late night sex, only to be savagely attacked by . . . well, monsters. Brutally torn limb from limb, their remains are found smoking in the sun, reeking of ammonia the next day, and slowly dissolving into puddles of goo. It only gets worse from there as people are attacked in their own backyards, on the street, and even in their homes. The monsters are like feral, rabid dogs the size of ponies, but with the teeth and claws of something much larger. Oh, and their bite isn't just toxic, it's infectious.
This is a fun book that piles on the gore and stacks up the body count as we go. It's brutal and over-the-top, almost cartoonish in its mad scientist villainy, but a very guilty pleasure. We're not quite talking Sharknado level of absurdity here, but it's a story that seems perfect for the small screen, late at night, with a little popcorn and alcohol. Think X-Files with a little less subtlety and a larger cast of characters - in fact, Shea throws everything into conspiracy side of the story, including FEMA, the CDC, and some other black ops folk.
It's a fast-paced, bloody, violent read that gets a little bogged down in explanations towards the end, but which still packs a final punch. The first few attacks were my favorites, dark and shadowy, with more the suggestion of monstrosity than outright confrontation. Having said that, some of the later set-pieces, such as the reality show broadcast and the ill-advised beach party were a lot of fun. The Montauk Monster is unlikely to go down as a classic work of horror literature, but I suspect you'll be seeing copies all over the beach this summer.
Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by Pinnacle