By David Morrell
Fawcett Crest, 255 pp, 1979
Like many good horror novels, the premise
for this one is very simple. A virus is unleashed in a small town. It is
spread through bites by infected individuals. Dogs, cats, and humans are
the most affected. The virus, similar to rabies but different, turns the
victim into a raving, slobbering, violent, lunatic. Domestic dogs and
cats become killers.
That's the story. Morrell then throws in
some believable and sympathetic characters and lets 'er rip. There's the
sheriff who moved there from Detroit several years before. There's a
down-on-his-luck star journalist who got his first big break in the town
several years ago and is back to reclaim lost glory. There's the coroner
who discovers the virus. The vet who helps him research it. There's the
mayor who fights against the sheriff for his own political reasons.
There's members of the sheriff's force.
There are a lot of characters, and that
is the book's main flaw. Morrell could have cut a few and gotten deeper
into the main ones. Worse, Morrell implies that the sheriff and coroner
had some sort of breakdown that prompted them to move the small town,
but never fully explains what caused the breakdown. A major oversight.
But the writing is good, the suspense is
great and the pace is crisp. It's also a literary statement on human
nature and the thin line that prevents us from devolving into our base
animal natures. Or original sin, if you prefer (as I do).
Overall, a fine book and enjoyable read.