Graham Masterton's Tengu

Jan 28 2008 Published by under Horror

I'm reading a number of books by Graham Masterton these days, in anticipation of writing a 'horror masters' post on his work. I had to 'break radio silence', though, and rave about one of his early books that I just finished over the weekend: Tengu. It's currently out of print, though copies can be found through Amazon, and it's well worth a read. I found the book riveting from it's shocking and horrifying beginning to its explosive ending...

The tale begins with a particularly horrifying and seemingly senseless murder. This murder brings together numerous people: the neighbor of the victim, the victim's former lover, the police inspector investigating the crime, and others of much less noble ideals. They are inexorably drawn deeper and deeper into a plot to wreak revenge on and destroy the United States for its past crimes.

The Tengu of the title is a demon of Japanese folklore, described in the book as the most powerful and violent of its class. The Tengu represents brutality and power, and the creation of Tengu(s) serves as a tool for a twisted and wealthy man to enact his revenge schemes.

I would say that this is Masterton at his best. There are numerous connections between the characters, and their stories slowly and inevitably intertwine until the nightmarish conclusion. The Tengu itself is truly a horrific, brutal creation, and the scenes of it wreaking havoc never lose their shock value. The true villain of the story, Kappa, the Lord of the Tengu, is one of the most evil I have ever seen in a book, and that's saying a lot.

As in many of his books, Masterton takes the mythology of an elder culture and twists it into something truly sinister. Even the martial arts become a symbol of horror. The entire story is also laden with the spectre of past crimes and past horrors, reinventing themselves in the present.

Right after reading this book, I went and ordered another early work of Masterton. It's fair to say he's quickly becoming one of my favorite horror authors. Why he isn't as popular as a King or a Koontz in the U.S. is a mystery to me...

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