The Sum Of Your Flesh - by Beverley Lee
The latest offering from the mother of Gothic horror, Beverley Lee – “The sum of your flesh” – weighs in at a mean 301 pages, following her last offering, a shorter novella entitled The house of little bones, which was released way back in September 2021. I say “way back” because that describes most accurately the impatience I felt whilst waiting for this new foray into Beverley’s dark and emotion-laden mind.
The storytelling here is a showcase for Lee’s developing craft – and I say that with the utmost admiration for her previous works – but Beverley has tightened her narrative here, overlaid storylines with other storylines, injected history into the whole, and run the gauntlet of opposing povs into one package. There’s a real sense of analytical craft here, of Lee having taken her time to deliver the best possible combination of elements. It reads like a Lee novel, but more so. There’s growth here. Age. Experience.
The world is fully immersive – the pages fly by in traditional Lee style, and the trademark short chapters with punchlines as hooks are here to ensure you keep those pages flicking by. There’s less character introspection than -say – the davenport series – but that keeps the story fresh and moving forward – introspection comes at the cost of revisiting previous scenes, and honestly, the reader wants to get to the why’s and how’s here – the book Is written as a puzzle revealed piece by piece.
I liked the injection of history, the diary format of the family’s arctic explorer relative kept the mystery of the identity of the monster fresh. I went through several theories trying to figure out what we were dealing with – werewolf (you played with my preconceptions with all those full moon references and the repeated use of the word “padded” to describe his walk. Don’t think I don’t know what you did, you trickster, Beverley), vampire, ghoul – and I'm not going to explain it here, but Beverley delivers something a little more complex to keep the reader guessing. The MC throne is somewhat split between two characters, each obtaining parts of the whole puzzle to complement the other.
There are elements of the story that Beverley doesn’t cover fully – the actual incident that defined Haven’s life path is a little vague – as is his decision to disguise himself as a Goth – not sure that all the creatures he sets out to find would be Goths or hang around goths, and his decision to get tattoos... The question of what the monster was, that defined his obsession is also unclear – were we talking about a vampire, a ghoul, a zombie? But that unknowing, that undefined obsession - plays to the story – not knowing is the driving force behind his desire to learn more, define more, destroy.
The climax is sudden, and well planned out, the ending fitting, the puzzle completed and packed away. I finished this in two days and feel Lee has once again produced a work that is compelling and immaculately planned and executed.
Can’t wait to see what Lee produces next – and I’m here for it - but if I may – I’d really love to see your spin on a werewolf, Beverley. Maybe a rabid one? One that rips out vampire’s throats for fun, has fleas, and maybe can’t change back?
Hope springs eternal.
Sum gets 5 out of five ⭐'s. Great book to start the new year off with, and a fantastic addition to the Mother of Gothic Horror's ensemble cast.
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